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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Junk Mail Industry Continues to Rob Customers

Perhaps this headline is somewhat severe when you consider the connotation, but certainly well within reasonable boundaries, when you look at the damage. The junk mail list industry reaps around $4 billion each year from the sale of your name and personal data. You are lured into the conspiracy by supposed convenience and the sale of products you desire, with a feeble warning that your name “might” be “occasionally” shared with other junk mailers.

You receive your merchandise, but not one penny from the repeated sale—25 to 50 times annually—of your name and private information that follows each purchase. The irony of this is that 98 of each 100 mailings go in the trash. And they wonder why it is called junk mail.

This all comes from my experience selling mailing lists for 35 years. As a privacy activist now, my goal is to pass federal legislation that will give consumers control over their names and personal data. At the same time, you should share in at least half of that $4 billion windfall each year. The proceeds could be taken either in cash, or put away in an interest-bearing account for retirement.

On July 4, I posted the article, “Independence Is Control Over Your Name and Personal Data,” which lays out my plan, and shows how similar law in the United Kingdom has worked in favor of the consumer without halting related business interests. Just this week I received data from the Brits’ Information Commissioner’s Office that shows just how effective their Data Protection Act has been. A complete article on this later.

Identity theft is rampant. Gasoline prices could reach $3 dollars per gallon any day. What better reasons for this control and compensation?

On the other hand, we’re dealing with a current administration and an incompetent Congress in so many areas that ID theft, and Americans’ privacy in general, is slowly evaporating. Along with this, data brokers and junk mailers, as well as non-junk mail companies that gather and sell our private information, go on their merry way harvesting obscene profits.

Yet, the very culprits responsible for the conspiracy are whining over how to get even more results from your names and private information. In a recent article, “Marketers Feel Data-Challenged,” from Direct, a junk mail industry publication, a survey reveals a general unhappiness by companies of not realizing the highest return from your personal data. They want more and more of it, but don’t know how to use it. Pathetic.

In keeping with the inaccuracy of ChoicePoint and Acxiom data from another survey ( 73% and 67%, respectively), junk mail marketers seem to fare no better, with only 30% reporting their data as reliable. Have you ever known of an industry selling its product—mailing lists—for $4 billion a year with an average error rate of 70%? I think not.

I did a couple of posts earlier in this blog that explore how junk mailers feel about being the proprietor of your names and private information: “Junk Mail 101: Junk Mailers Believe They Own Your Name,” and “Junk Mail 101: Junk Mailers Believe They Own Your Name II.” Each has its points about a business greedy to take advantage of this by-product of your junk mail shopping, and II even quotes some prices of industry mailing lists.

It’s almost a “squatter’s rights” mentality used for real property, but legally that won’t even work. This approach requires “exclusive use,” and your name and personal data is in the hands of several hundred junk mailers and data brokers…simultaneously. And, I have yet to see a valid argument from anyone in the business that it is legal to take control of something as private as this data by any party other than the name-holder.

So, it’s time to take back what is rightfully yours. Write, E-mail or telephone your Congressional representatives and tell them what you think of this concept of controlling your name and personal data, and, being paid when it is sold. Contacting the House of Representatives. Contacting the Senate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can you remove the posts about Kreg Therapeutics Please?