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Monday, January 26, 2009


A Penton Media junk mail online publication, Chief Marketer, looks at the future of Direct Marketing after the election. Lots of plans, but nary a mention of how the industry would strive to improve sensitive data security. Of course we wouldn’t want it to be top priority, with identity theft running at the head of the consumer fraud class. With the Direct Marketing Assn. trade group downsizing recently, there is even less oversight for junk mailers who push the envelope or even commit outright deception. Hopefully, the age of “let business police itself” went out the door with George W. Bush. Sorry, but it is obvious from the economic mess we are in right now that has affected so my industries that greed at the top has more appeal than doing the right thing. With around 60 million junk mail households in the country, they have the right to expect that this business lives up to the highest standards in handling their names and private information. Therefore, I hope that the new administration will consider some regulation of junk mailers when it addresses the identity crisis…and soon! Wrong conclusion on new Better Business Bureau strategy. First of all, I don’t believe the BBB is consumer oriented enough; it is clearly more in the corner of business. But an article on MSNBC by Eve Tahmincioglu, misses the point completely about the new agency’s approach. The author takes them to task over a revision in rating businesses that sets up a report card system (A thru F) that is much easier to interpret when deciding to deal with a company or group. She even makes a statement in the piece that proves my point. She says: “Before, if you were a business owner all you had to do was get yourself off the unsatisfactory list and you'd be okay with customers.” A few years ago when the qualifications were “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory,” I questioned the “satisfactory” rating of a “get rich quick” junk mail company for having a large, and I mean large, number of complaints. The BBB’s answer was that, with regard to the number of complaints in relation to the amount of business they did, the formula considered them OK. Having spent over 25 years as a junk mail list/data broker at the time, I knew that their “amount of business” was reported as the number of suckers that responded to an appeal that promised they would get rich overnight. No wonder the proportion worked in their favor. The new system would probably give them as F, at least a D. Here we go again with another anti-identity theft bill. OK, at least it is designed to make it harder for the bad guys to get your Social Security number. Senators Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the bill in January, according to junk mail publication, Direct. Called the Protecting the Privacy of Social Security Numbers Act, it prohibits the sale, purchase or display of a Social Security number by any person without the number holder’s consent. That’s good for legitimate business, but what about the Internet underground that could care less about federal legislation. Why can’t these lawmakers just realize that there is only one way to end the identity crisis? Give consumers control over their names and personal data, and compensate them when it is sold to encourage the acceptance of this new responsibility.

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