Ad Group Warns Of Possible Backlash From NSA Surveillance

For almost one week now, the ad industry has been digesting the revelations that the National Security Agency is engaging in widespread surveillance of communications.

It's still too soon to know whether news of the NSA's initiative will lead to a push for new online privacy laws. But some ad industry executives are already expressing concern.

“One of our concerns is that people will try to pass new restrictions -- out of fear of government surveillance -- that will stop what marketers can do, without having any impact on what the government can do,” Linda Woolley, president and CEO of the Direct Marketing Association, tells MediaPost.

Woolley adds that she hopes that people don't confuse how the ad industry draws on data with spying by the government. “If they are conflated, things could go very badly for marketers,” she says.

She was elaborating on a DMA blog post, which warns that perceptions surrounding the government's surveillance and monitoring programs could result in new restrictions for marketers. “Unless we correct these mischaracterizations about what data-driven marketers do and how we do it, we will get caught up in the Washington backlash against governmental intrusion,” the DMA says in the post, written by Rachel Thomas, vice president of government affairs.

Thomas adds in the post that new restrictions on marketers wouldn't affect whether the government can spy on people.

Thomas is right in that there's probably no way to stop the government from collecting data without revising the Patriot Act. At the same time, enacting restrictions on data retention by private companies could make it a lot harder for the government to get hold of information. After all, if Web companies promptly deleted messages and other material from their servers, then the data wouldn't be readily available to the NSA or any other authority.



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