Several weeks ago Shop.org announced it was able to successfully lobby against the Federal Trade Commission’s attempt to expand its rule-making power in the recently passed financial overhaul bill. The FTC’s move was in response to a privacy bill outline offered in May by Virginia’s Rick Boucher. Boucher’s outline was not turned into a bill, and the FTC’s expanded rule-making attempt never materialized. So, what now?
Here’s where the political fun comes into play. Boucher heads the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. His draft failed to gather input from Rush, who heads the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee, a group that is charged with oversight on commerce, trade, and consumer protection. According to some industry experts and insiders it appears as though Rush’s bill is more clear about the FTC’s rule-making authority.
As far as direct digital marketing is concerned – especially onsite targeting – early reaction indicates that the Rush bill adheres to the same self-regulatory principles that are already largely in play. The obvious opt-out of behavioral tracking that marketers must provide is contained in the bill. Still, these opt-outs principles are primarily applied to offsite behavioral targeting, like ad networks. Onsite targeting simply tracks customer behavior on a specific Web site, or their entry point to site, with a transparent goal of making the shopping experience better. While offsite targeting is the primary target for lawmakers, it is wise for technologists and vendors that have onsite targeting solutions to offer a similarly transparent opt-out for their customers (like this one).
The truth of the matter is that quality marketers who are talented at creating conversions and generating sales know that transparency is not optional. To retain customer loyalty and build a relationship online with a customer the brand cannot afford to fool the customer – or creep them out with poorly executed marketing that leverages conspicuously captured data.
Marketers have a lot at stake with transparency. Sure, self-regulation may scare some lawmakers on all sides of the political equation. And that is understandable. But all parties involved must first realize that before marketing transparency becomes a legal have-to, it is already a successful marketing must.