DMA Says FTC Commissioner’s Call for Legislation To Restrict Data Mining “Is Unfounded”

Aug. 27, 2013 – In a recent letter to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) Julie Brill, Direct Marketing Association CEO and president Linda A. Woolley stated that Brill’s op-ed piece published in the Washington Post “inaccurately targets reputable practices that benefit consumers and unfairly demagogues the hundreds of thousands of people employed in the field of responsible data-driven marketing.”

FTC Commissioner Brill’s Aug. 15 op-ed compared commercial data brokers to the National Security Agency, which came under fire for its loose interpretation of citizens’ rights to privacy and states that “citizens don’t know what of our personal information is on file or how it is being used,” which “frames the fundamental challenge to consumer privacy in the online marketplace: our loss of control over our most private and sensitive information.”

To remedy this perceived problem, Brill says that “changing the law would help” and that her “Reclaim Your Name” initiative, announced in June at the Computer Freedom and Privacy Conference, can be “adopted by the industry without a government directive.” Brill’s initiative, which has not been formally adopted by the FTC, includes four components, according to the op-ed piece:

  1. Empower people to find out how brokers are collecting and using their data;
  2. Give people access to information that data brokers have amassed about them;
  3. Allow people to opt out if they learn that a data broker is selling their information for marketing purposes; and
  4. Provide consumers the opportunity to correct errors in information used for decisions about substantive benefits.

DMA’s Woolley counters in her Aug. 19 letter to Brill that businesses and not-for-profit organizations using consumer data for a variety of beneficial purposes already are governed by “a robust set of sector-specific federal and state laws and regulations,” and that “the law, for good reason, has always treated surveillance issues as distinct from commercial uses of data.”

She also notes that Brill’s assertion that consumers need to “’reclaim their names’ focuses on speculative harms and ignores the consumer protection derived from customization and personalization of Internet experiences through the commercialization of data,” such as preventing fraud and identity theft. Specifically, the DMA counters that a “reclaim your name” initiative “would lead to more fraud and limit the efficacy of companies and data discussed in the op-ed.”

Woolley concludes the letter by stating that “the call for legislation to restrict benign and long-standing business activities is unfounded” and that the DMA, which believes that responsible use of consumer data is essential, hopes that future exchanges between industry and the FTC “will be conducted in a manner that is constructive and positive.”

To view the DMA letter, go to: To view Brill’s op-ed piece, go to: