DMA's New Lobbying Effort Centers On Data-Driven Marketing

The trade group Direct Marketing Association is calling on Congress to overhaul privacy laws in order to protect companies' ability to use data for marketing purposes.

Among other changes, the DMA wants Congress to invalidate state laws “that endanger the value of data,” and to prohibit consumers from bringing privacy class-action lawsuits. The DMA unveiled its legislative agenda today in Washington, as part of a new lobbying effort.

“We're calling on Congress to pay attention to this area,” says DMA vice president Rachel Thomas. She adds that the DMA hasn't identified any specific state laws that it wants to invalidate. But she says the organization is troubled by some recent local initiatives. For instance, earlier this year a former California state senator and a trial lawyer proposed a state ballot initiative to make certain data about consumers confidential. They dropped the proposal earlier this month.

The DMA's request for a ban on class-actions comes as nearly every major online company -- including Google, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn and others -- is embroiled in litigation relating to privacy. Facebook alone has forged settlements in two major privacy class-actions stemming from ad initiatives. One $9 million settlement related to the Beacon program, which told users about their friends' ecommerce purchases; the other, a $20 million deal, stemmed from the sponsored stories program, which uses people's names and photos in ads sent to their friends. Both of those cases are still being appealed by people who oppose the settlements.

Earlier this year, the DMA attempted to weigh in on comScore's behalf in a privacy class-action. In that matter, the trade group unsuccessfully asked the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to hear comScore's appeal of trial judge's decision to allow the class-action to go forward.

Other items on the DMA's legislative agenda include passing a national data security and breach notification law, which would trump the array of existing state data breach notification laws, reforming the federal wiretap law to prohibit law enforcement from accessing certain data without search warrants, and preserving industry self-regulation.

The DMA also announced on Tuesday the launch of the Data Protection Alliance, which Thomas says will focus on “a broad swath of issues that owuld impact the data driven marketing economy.” The DMA is now calling for businesses to join the new alliance. The marketing group recently unveiled a study it commissioned, which concluded that data about individual consumers accounted for more than $150 billion last year.


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