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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Challenge to Junk Mail List Industry: Put Up or Shut Up

Back in 2004, I was writing op-eds on the subject of protecting individuals’ names and personal data, and submitting them to newspapers around the country with good success. As the result of one titled, “Mining the gold in our names,” appearing in the Rocky Mountain News, Tad Clarke, then Editor in Chief of junk mail industry publication, DM News, took exception with the term “junk mail.” He also called my hand on sharing this revenue with the name-holder, professing that junk mail shoppers already share in the wealth by getting lower prices. This is pure bull----!

If you add up any junk mail purchase, including shipping and handling—also a profit center with some junk mailers—you won’t save a lousy cent. You’ll actually pay more, but it is done in the name of convenience…which is OK. But don’t insult mine, or the public’s intelligence, by trying to pass off this industry fallacy that has been floated for years…that you can save money. I responded to Clarke’s editorial with my side of the story and have been richly ignored since.

When The Dunning Letter was launched in April of 2005, I had hoped to hear from any junk mail professional that agrees or disagrees with my concept that federal legislation should be passed giving consumers control over their names and private information, and pay them when it is sold. I haven’t heard from anyone. In the 35 years while selling names and personal data, it has been my position that the individual should have rights of control, and a good number of former associates know that.

Not only do I know that there are those in the business who agree with my ideas, but from experience, there are many who felt the data breach episodes of 2005 were inevitable, due to a lack of industry standards for security. But all of us were too busy making money to do anything about it. That is, until three years ago when I began my research to start The Dunning Letter, and its eventual introduction as a Blog.

So why should I care? Because it is in everyone’s interest to clean up the junk mail list industry, and I believe there are list professionals out there with stories that could help do just that. Otherwise, these list brokers and list managers are destined to lose the $4 billion annually harvested from the sale of consumers’ names and private information. The public is very angry over the identity crisis, and it is only a matter of time before tough, possibly irreversible, measures are taken.

So let’s hear it junk mailers, especially the list brokers and list managers, and tell me what you think. You can roast me at the stake or hang me in effigy, but at least give me your position on this issue of protecting consumers’ names and personal data. Tell me where I’m wrong and what you would do in this matter. You can get it off your chest and we’ll all be the better for it. Just e-mail me at and tell me what you think.

The clock is running, and there is very little time left. Your industry can survive the “junk” in junk mail, because it is a nickname associated with that 98% that ends up in the city dump. What it cannot endure is the complete loss of public confidence that will occur with continuing identity breaches.

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