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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Do-Not-Call Registry Works, Proving Consumers Should Control Their Names and Personal Data

Do-Not-Call Provides Control Over Telephone Number

If you are on the National Do-Not-Call Telephone Registry, you are one of more than 107 million individuals that decided you were fed up with unwanted telemarketers that were pushy, inconsiderate, and a general pain in the butt. They still are, and they remain out there, but they can’t call us anymore if we signed up. If they do, you can file a complaint with the FTC that will stop them once and for all. I know. I did it.

With just under one-half the adult population on the DNC list, I haven’t heard of mass-bankruptcy proceedings for the junk mail and non-junk mail companies using this method of selling. Meaning, I assume, that they have found other means to present their wares. In other words, this federal legislation did not put anyone but the telemarketing business in jeopardy, which is a work ethic they chose to make.

As a former broker of mailing lists—yes, I once sold telephone numbers, but refused to with my clients after experiencing the intrusion trauma of the telemarketer’s call—I can confirm that this was a major part of the advertising thrust of many junk mailers. Some in the industry even indicated that the DNC would put them out of business. Crying wolf again, similar to when the Direct Marketing Assn. (DMA) started the “Mail Preference Service” years ago that allows shoppers to opt-off mailing lists.

Consumers should Control Names and Personal Data

So why am I bringing all this up now? Congressional leaders virtually ignore the concept that consumers should have control over their names and personal data. There are two possible reasons for this. One) business lobbying does not want it, and, therefore, pays to keep it from being legislated; Two) Congress thinks the individual is not capable of handling the task. My gut feeling is that it is both. However, I like neither the fact that junk mailers and non-junk mailers are bankrolling the open door to my identity theft, nor am I fond of being considered stupid., an Internet journal from the University of Illinois, had an interesting article, “Economics of Personal Information Exchange,” that explores who owns our private data. Scrolling down to the heading, “Personal Information as a Property Right,” they confirm how our current system recognizes businesses that warehouse our personal data as its owners.

Government and Business Do Not Own Our Private Information

My argument against this premise is that numerous, distinctly different entities (ChoicePoint, Bank of America, Sharper Image, plus several more) store this sensitive data simultaneously. They all cannot be considered legal owners; therefore, this remains an issue for lawmakers to decide. You can read more about this in my July 19, post, “Junk Mail Industry Continues to Rob Customers.”

On the other hand, I do not believe that consumers should be given property rights over their names and private information. There are too many scam artists out there that will turn this into a money-making proposition that some individuals will not be able to refuse. Beth Givens, founder of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, agrees with this position.

Contact Congress to Pass Federal Legislation

My answer is to pass federal legislation that gives consumers control over their names and personal data. While we’re at it, you should be paid any time it is sold. If you agree, write, E-mail or telephone your Congressional representatives and tell them. Contacting the House of Representatives. Contacting the Senate.

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