Senate Poised to Change the Rules of the Road for Marketers


Three U.S. Senators and two bills in the U.S. Senate appear poised to change the basic rules for anyone involved in using Internet, email, or social media services. 

Senator Jay Rockefeller’s Do Not Track Act of 2011 and the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011 sponsored by former presidential hopefuls John Kerry and John McCain would limit  marketer’s ability to track online behavior, and give consumers new rights to review the data collected about them, and make changes to that data. 

The two bills, if enacted, would affect a range of common marketing tools such as using cookies to track visitors to a website, link and email open/read/forward statistics in email marketing campaigns, and location-based data collected on mobile Internet and WiFi users.

Representatives from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), which recently announced record 2010 full-year Internet ad spending, expressed concern that the proposal provides the FTC with too much discretion in drafting and implementing rules.

“We are concerned with the provisions in their proposal that would impose strict new requirements on first-party sites to allow their users to access, correct and delete data collected by that site,” said Mike Zaneis, senior vice president and general counsel of the IAB. “These types of first-party restrictions were explicitly rejected by the FTC and are unnecessary to protect consumer privacy, but would severely hurt publishers.”

The Direct Marketing Association’s  CEO Larry Kimmel has also expressed concerns about both bills.  “The devil is in the details. How do you implement this without imposing a myriad of new regulations and hurdles on companies?,” Kimmel said.

DMA Vice President Linda Wooley talked at length about the potential compliance costs associated with the legislation in an interview with Search Compliance.

Will both bills pass?  That isn’t clear, given the political in-fighting in Washington and the looming election season.  But no elected official wants the label “soft on protecting consumer privacy” in the aftermath of well-publicized data breaches at Sony, Epsilon, and TJ Maxx.

What is clear is that anyone who earns a living in marketing had better be paying close attention over the next few months.  Short of a significant revision of the out-dated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (of 1984) and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) — both of which NEED significant revisions — these two bills are the most significant change to “business as usual”  for every kind of online, email, and social media marketing campaign.

Photos from the U.S. Senate Press Office; used with permission.

About debmcalister

I'm a Dallas-based marketing consultant and writer, who specializes in helping start-up technology companies grow. I write (books, articles, and blogs) about marketing, technology, and social media. This blog is about all of those -- and the funny ways in which they interesect with everyday life. It's also the place where I publish general articles on topics that interest me -- including commentary about the acting and film communities, since I have both a son and grandson who are performers.
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