Some of the most important issues facing our industry are also the most difficult to monitor, as initiatives at the state level seem to spread like the flu across the country. Our trade associations do an amazing job and deserve special thanks for embracing the thankless task of keeping us informed of all the ways these changes impact the direct marketing industry.
As Hank Andersen mentioned a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion on Advocacy for Print in the Digital Age – The New Landscape in 2019 at the DMA Print in the Digital Age Committee meeting on January 31. Chris Oswald, Senior Vice President, ANA, and Xenia “Senny” Boone, Esq., Senior Vice President, ANA, provided a comprehensive overview of the challenges data-driven marketers will face in 2019. These challenges include data privacy pushes at the state level and what the USPS needs to do to continue to perform as an effective and affordable partner for direct mail marketers, catalogers, and other users of print marketing media. When I greeted Chris on that bitter-cold morning in New York City, the first thing he said was, “Call me Mr. Bad News.”
Data Privacy Legislation Isn’t Confined to California
I laughed then, but the privacy legislation issues facing marketers are no laughing matter. For example, Mr. Bad News outlined data privacy bills currently under consideration in Washington state, New Mexico, Massachusetts, North Dakota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. He then continued the discussion with data security/breach bills and other initiatives in Massachusetts, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Missouri, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Washington state. For example, the governor of Massachusetts signed MA HB 4806 into law on January 10 and MA SB 942 has already been introduced to fix the new Massachusetts law.
The session also included an overview of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and how this attempt to protect consumers is ultimately bad for them. The bill’s flaws start with language that uses a definition of ‘personal information’ that is so broad, it pertains to practically everything: “Information that identifies, relates to, describes, is capable of being associated with, or could reasonably be linked, directly or indirectly, with a particular consumer or household.” Can you think of any data that cannot be associated with other data that is “linked” to a consumer?
For those who think, “No need to worry. It’s just another California thing that won’t impact me,” think again. As written, the law will force marketers to develop specific operations for their customers in California. Lawmakers in other states will naturally want to ‘do it better’ than California, leading to what ANA describes as, “a patchwork of inconsistent state laws seeking to regulate a global marketplace.”
Even Loyalty Programs Could Feel the Effect of Proposed Data Privacy Legislation
Still thinking, “This doesn’t apply to me?” ANA hosted a great webinar last week on key government and advocacy issues that included some compelling infographics about addressing the risk of data consolidation under the CCPA, fixing the CCPA to stop hackers, and fixing the CCPA to protect loyalty programs. Here’s the closing comment from the loyalty program example:
“Without changes to the law or clear guidance from the Attorney General that these terms do not apply to loyalty programs, the only benefit California customers may get from their loyalty is a friendly smile from the cashier.”
The Print in the Digital Age session ended with a reminder about the importance of getting active on data privacy issues and others. Here are three suggestions for how to do that:
- If you are a DMA and/or ANA member, join the subcommittees.
- If you are not a member of DMA/ANA, join today.
- Help inform the work of DMA and ANA by writing letters, providing input, and when appropriate, attending meetings on Capitol Hill.
If you need more information about advocacy initiatives for data-driven marketers, contact me here. By the way, Chris Oswald may have called himself Mr. Bad News, but he and Senny delivered the news with grace, humor, and insight that made us all better informed and better prepared to find a ‘cure’ for data privacy issues that benefits consumers and businesses alike.
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