Data Love Story in the USA With a Few Spats, Too

You might call this time of year, Jan. 15 to March 15, marketing data’s “high season,” based on all of the goings-on. There’s a lot of data love out there — and, like all relationships that are precious, they demand a huge amount of attention, respect, and honor — and celebration.

I’ve been enjoying Alliant’s “Data and the Marketer: A Timeless Love Story” postings this month, leading up to Valentine’s Day.

You might call this time of year, Jan. 15 to March 15, marketing data’s “high season,” based on all of the goings-on:

The Alliant infographic download got me thinking of some other “key” dates that might also be recognized on the Data Love calendar, reflecting other aspects of the love story. Not all love affairs are perfect — are there any? Sometimes there’s a quarrel and spats happen, without any abandonment of a full-on love affair.

  • 1960 — The Direct Marketing Association (then, DMAA) develops its first self-regulatory ethics code for data and lists, in an early industry initiative to separate the good from bad players. It becomes the basis for practically every data protection (and consumer rights) framework since.
  • 1971 — The Mail Preference Service is launched (today DMAChoice) the first marketing industry opt-out control program for consumers — the essential framework for every consumer choice tool in marketing (in-house and industry-wide) since.
  • 1973 — The U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare introduces and adopts eight Fair Information Principles. In 1980, the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development adopts these principles for trans-border data flows. In 1995, The European Union, among other governments, enact variation and interpretation of these formally into law, eventually adopting the EU General Data Protection Regulation in 2018.
  • 1991 — Jennifer Barret is named Acxiom’s privacy leader — among the first enterprises to name what essentially would become a “chief privacy officer.” In 2000, Trevor Hughes launches the International Association of Privacy Professionals. A nascent cottage industry evolves into a huge professional education and development organization that today includes tens of thousands of members.
  • 1992 — A nonprofit and privacy advocacy organization, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, is formed, and soon thereafter begins tracking data security breaches, both public and private sector. Its breach list since 2005 is posted here. Data privacy and data security, as evidenced in Fair Information Practice Principles, go hand-in-hand.
  • 1994 — The first online display ad appears on the Internet, by AT&T. (And the first commercial email perhaps the same year.) So marked the humble beginnings of Internet marketing — “direct marketing on steroids.” I thought Jeff Bezos used this term in Amazon (formed 1994) early days during a DMA conference – but alas, I’m having a hard time sourcing that one. Perhaps this quote was related to Google (formed 1998) and the real-time relevance of search!
  • 1995-96 — Subscriber Ram Avrahami asserts a property right to his name in a lawsuit against S. News and World Report. Because he thwarted the spelling of his name on the magazine’s list – in a bid to discover who else the magazine rents its subscriber list to – the court ultimately rejects his challenge. The case, however, introduces a novel concept and set of questions:Is the value of any list or database tied to the presence of any one individual name on that list, a penny a name in this case?  Or, is its value because of the sweat of the brow of the list/database creator (a business, nonprofit group, or other entity) that built a common attribute to which a list may derive commercial value?The “walled gardens” of today’s Digital Giants largely were built on such data collection. These two questions recognize that a “data-for-value” exchange must be perceived as mutually beneficial, or else consumer trust is eroded. “Who owns the data?” (a 20th Century assertion) might be better substituted today as “Who has a shared interest in the value and protection of data?” (a 21st Century proposition).
  • 2006 — Facebook is formed, among the first companies that created a “social network.” (I’m sure the adult content sector preceded it, as it often points us the way.) In one industry after another, digital disruption reorders supply chains, consumer-brand relationships, shopping practices, and name-your-own-business here. The Great Recession, and venture capital, serves to speed the quest for data-defined efficiency and transformation.
  • 2017 — Equifax, one of the United States three leading credit and information bureaus on Americans, experiences a breach of epic proportions. While the nation was fascinated with subsequent public hearings about Facebook, its data deals, and its (ahem, beneficial) targeted advertising practices, a potentially much more egregious purveyor of harm – sponsored government hacking of the highest order – largely gets a ho-hum from the general public, at least until this past week.
  • 2020 — California fragments online privacy protection in the United States – only underscoring the need for the federal government to act sooner than later. Support Privacy for America.

So, yes, there’s a lot of Data Love out there — and, like all relationships that are precious, they demand a huge amount of attention, respect, and honor — and celebration. See you soon in Orlando!

 

 

Equifax Data Breach: Has America Given Up on Privacy?

“If you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax …” That’s how the FTC notification of the Equifax data breach begins, and it’s a remarkable statement.

Equifax Logo“If you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax …”

That’s how the FTC notification of the Equifax data breach begins. And it’s a remarkable statement. “If you have a credit report” — and who doesn’t? — your personal information was probably stolen by hackers.

I mean, 143 million people is about 44 percent of the U.S. population. This breach is huge, and it will impact just about everybody.

So what are Americans doing about it? Screaming for a government breakup? Marching on the Equifax headquarters with pitchforks? Abandoning credit checks?

Eh … folks gave Equifax CSR “Stevie” a hard time on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/Technicolordojo/status/906147301986639872?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cnbc.com%2F2017%2F09%2F08%2Fequifax-tweets-happy-friday-after-security-breach.html

And people are suing, of course. In fact, there’s a one-click lawsuit chatbot that’ll allow you to sue Equifax without a lawyer!

(That has to be some kind of landmark in chatbot empowerment. One day after the robots take over, chatbots will get an annual day off in the name of DoNotPay.)

But the most common reaction has been a shrug. The Atlantic summed it up with the title of its article, “The Banality of the Equifax Breach.”

Credit breaches have become so common that the FTC has a cartoon about it, and it starts off exactly as banally as you’d expect: “Yet another data breach is making headlines …”

And who can blame anyone for treating these data breaches as routine? According to Identity Force, this was the 24th major data breach this year. These aren’t exceptional, they’re routine.

If there’s any silver lining, it’s that breaches at important institutions like Equifax and FAFSA (an IRS tool) make retail breaches seem like small potatoes.

There’s been almost no significant response to these breaches from the U.S. government. Europe has been far more proactive, with General Data Protection Regulations about to go into effect that will require companies to have a chief data protection officer.

The best Americans can expect a week of is free credit protection from Equifax, so long they sign away their right to sue about he rest of the breech. (Correcton: Commenter Phillip Angerhofer brought to my attention that Equifax has adjusted its terms of service to make clear that consumers do not waive the right to sue by enrolling in the service. Thank you, Phillip!)

All of which begs the question at the top: Have Americans given up on privacy? Because, despite the amount of data breaches we’re seeing, American citizens don’t really seem all that fired up on the topic.

As ridiculous as the E.U policy may sound, are Americans doing enough to protect consumer data?

And if not, are U.S. brands ready to meet the more rigorous laws coming into play in the rest of the world?