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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Junk Mail Industry Holds Annual Convention - Ignores Consumer Privacy Problems

Junk Mailers Meet in San Francisco

The Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) annual convention is being held this year in San Francisco, the famous city by the bay. It started last Saturday and runs through Thursday of this week. I remember one I attended there when I first entered the junk mail business. I was the marketing guy for now defunct Sunset House of Los Angeles, one of those general merchandise catalogs that sold cheap products. The one thing I remember about that event—and the other 50 or so I attended over the next 25 years—was there was a lot of boozing and smoozing going on. Myself included.

The days were filled with meetings, workshops, and, of course, the huge exhibit hall that provided the vendors a place to display their wares. It is here that the list business—where I eventually ended up as a list broker—was in its heyday. I quickly learned that you had to go for the jugular, which meant acquiring new clients in any way you could. That is probably the reason that for years the broker of mailing lists has been characterized as the “prostitute” of junk mail.

Convention and Industry Need New Theme

But all parties must end and a serious side eventually prevail. I tell you this story as an analogy to the fact that the junk mail industry has never gotten serious over your privacy with real protection of your name and personal data. And once again in 2006, conventioneers are doing something else other than worrying about your sensitive data. Whether they are still boozing and smoozing or not, they aren’t addressing consumer privacy.

For the last few days I have been surfing the Internet for news of what is going on at the “show,” as the DMA calls it. Their theme, “Customers Are On A Journey…Be the Destination,” is catchy, but started me thinking of another version. My new account would read: “Customers Are On A Journey…Protect Them Along The Way.” But then I am biased toward the guardianship of your private information.

DMA06 Fails to Address Consumer Privacy

In checking the schedule of the six-day program, there is no serious coverage of consumer privacy. Nothing of substance that tells the DMA membership of almost five thousand companies that they must do a better job protecting sensitive data, or the identity crisis will become a catastrophe. But the daily sessions are crammed with advice on how to grab all the new customers you can, collect all the data about them that is available, and sell it anywhere they can.

It’s too late for this San Francisco convention, but not too late for the consumer to stand up and demand federal legislation that gives them control over their names and personal data. Folks, it is the only way to solve this problem, and we need your support to make it happen. Please let me hear from you.

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