Further, the Financial Times reported today that a group of Europe's national data-protection and privacy commissioners, known as the "Article 29 working party," just released a report calling for tighter privacy rules across Europe for the management of consumer data by social networks and other Web sites that host third-party applications.
Whether you like it or not, a lot of folks who matter are worried about how consumer data is used -- and misused -- in digital marketing. While some or many of the fears may be unfounded, it doesn't matter. The fact that the fears exist requires that they be dealt with. If digital marketing companies are going to get serious about confronting this issue, now is the time.
What should folks do to make sure that they're on the right side of the privacy issue? Here are some of my suggestions:
Take privacy protection seriously. Protecting consumer privacy is a very important issue, one that could have massive consequences for the digital marketing industry. It's on the front burner in Washington because it's a hot-button issue to tens of millions of Americans. Don't underestimate both the public's concern and the ability of policy makers to step in and fix it if the industry doesn't.
Support and embrace self-regulation. The Interactive Advertising Bureau is working with a number of other trade groups on a proposed self-regulatory framework. Get behind it. Its success is critical to our industry.
Pay attention to government leaders. Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission and Representatives Rick Boucher and Bobby Rush are among those leading the charge to better protect consumer online privacy, in the regulatory and legislative arenas respectively. They are well-respected, know their stuff and have a lot of political and public support. If we work with them, we will get the best result.
Be straight with users. This one was taught to me by The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg, who is not only one of the world's most important journalists on personal technology, but who has been a real advocate for Web sites and online marketers being more transparent with online data collection. Follow his counsel: Be straight with users and tell them what data you're collecting and what you're doing with it. You can only win that way.
What do you think about the online privacy issue? Am I making too much of it? Too little?