A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog suggesting that marketers and the DMA get ahead of net tracker legislation, after the FCC had invited some comments on proposed privacy legislation. Then came word that Senators John Kerry and John McCain, both senior and influential from opposite sides of the political and ideological spectrum, are co-sponsoring an “online privacy bill of rights“.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that there is turf battle between the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee on which one of them has the authority to deal with online privacy issues. All of this points to online privacy fast becoming a hot political issue. It is one thing for marketers and the DMA to fight the FTC. It is quite another thing to be on the wrong end of a legislative juggernaut.
I remain convinced that the right kind of privacy legislation can serve to not only protect consumers but give them a sense of control over how their information is used. This will, in turn, make it easier for marketers to provide appropriate messages at the right time without being big brotherish about it. The devil, as always, is in the details. Whether it is browser based or site based, any system that is put in place should be easy and convenient for customers while providing marketers with the ability to track appropriate data for willing customers in order to provide a superior experience online. For companies that take customer experience seriously, this could help them immensely by differentiating them from their competition. For those who just spam their customers, this legislation will, hopefully, make life more difficult.
The real tragedy would be if the legislation tars all marketers with the same brush and just succeeds in making life difficult for everyone. Unfortunately, given how inept our lawmakers have shown themselves to be, that may indeed be the likely outcome. No protection for consumers, just a nuisance for companies and no one is better off. By being proactive rather than just obstructionist, smart marketers have a chance to shape this legislation so it does benefit consumers as well as consumer-friendly companies.