Consumer Groups Unite to Expand the Data Debate

Josh GordonLast week I introduced a recent shift in consumer perception of behavioral targeting, as more consumers seem open to accepting relevant Web content - no matter how the data is collected - at both the network and safer onsite targeting levels. According to Mobile Marketer writer Dan Butcher, consumer advocacy groups have adapted to new consumer thinking. However, instead of backing away from a debate, they have united and broadened the dialog beyond just Web based behavioral targeting and the Web channel to the entirety of digital communications.

The consumer groups – ten in total – have banded together to pressure Congress to formulate legislation designed to give the Federal Trade Commission the authority to govern the collection of consumer data in both the online and mobile channels. The evolution of this debate, pushed by the consumer groups, is fascinating. While momentum behind legislation restricting online data collection and use is lessening thanks to the increasingly proactive response from technology providers, the new target (pun intended) is all digital communications channels.

As the capabilities of the digital channels expand, advocacy groups are positioning themselves to avoid any negative impact on consumers by placing all digital communications under one umbrella. However, they are likely taking a difficult position to maintain and win. The groups are correct that the more digital channels covered by the legislation the more powerful it will be. But the precedent is dangerous. The primary digital channels – email, Web, and mobile – are very different, with very different guidelines and regulations (even if the marketing application of some of the technologies is similar).

Regarding proposed mobile regulations, the Do-Not-Track registry could limit some forms of mobile marketing that are heavy on geographic targeting and light on opt-ins. However, imposing a 24-hour limit on holding consumer data could create a great deal of unnecessary red tape and additional processes that will further limit marketing adoption of mobile technology and damage the value a consumer places on their mobile device.

There is more to this story, and each chapter brings new and unexpected twists. Expect the united consumer advocacy groups to wield more power than before. However, continued proactive measures by technology providers will protect consumers, and are becoming mandatory to survive in the ever-changing direct digital marketing landscape.

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