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Monday, March 09, 2009


Junk mail publication, Direct, attempts to mimic con man Harold Hill of Music Man in its headline, "Obama’s FTC Spells Trouble with a Capital T.” The columnist’s whining is both tiring and with a complete lack of substance. But this is typical since most of these hacks continue to defend an industry that has needed regulation for years.

The author, no doubt representing the attitude of many junk mailers, thinks President Obama’s pick of Jon Leibowitz to head the Federal Trade Commission, spells doom for the business. This, because Leibowitz is a firm believer in consumer rights, which might lead one to believe the junk mail industry isn’t. And I come to this conclusion based on my 35 years as a list/data broker, observing the concern for profits taking priority over the security of consumers’ personal data.

Apparently the writer of this article pines for the Bush administration style of consumerism, which is one of complete neglect. That is exactly what junk mailers want so they can continue to run their business in the secretive manner they have for years. They don’t want you to know how many times a day your private information is manipulated for revenues that exceed $4 billion dollars annually, and they don’t want you to ask why the name-holder—that’s you—doesn’t have the opportunity to share in the wealth.

I did a post on January 19, asking the question, "Will Federal Trade Commission Change its Tune to Placing Consumers Before Business under President-Elect Obama?” I guess I got my answer in the naming of Jon Leibowitz to head the FTC. Earlier, in April of 2008, I did two posts re. Leibowitz’s just held meeting on the dangers of behavioral or target advertising. That’s when junk mailers use lifestyle lists to zero in on households that smoke, gamble and/or drink, among a host of other consumer daily habits neatly tucked away in databases.

The Direct author tells of an interview in 2006 with Leibowitz, quoting the commissioner as saying “online information can be personally identifiable even if the advertiser doesn’t have a Web site visitor’s name or address.” When Leibowitz continued explaining that there are unique identifiers that can lead to a person’s true identity—which there are—he was called “ludicrous.” What is lucicrous is that these journalistic cheerleaders don’t want you to know just how much junk mailers know about you.

The junk mail industry has been able to get away with a lack of regulation for years—except for minor instances like being required to let you opt out of having your name and personal data sold, and a major move by the FTC when enacting the Do-Not-Call registry. The first is buried in any advertisement you receive; the latter, of course, was a matter of consumer demand. The reason Congress has failed its constituents on this issue is that they don’t have enough understanding of junk mail to create effective legislation. And…US consumers haven’t demanded it.

I’m ready to enlighten Congress. It’s up to you to make sure they do something. Contact: House of Representatives; Senators.

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