Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Protecting your Identity

As the days, months and years pass, and as consumer privacy and identity protection become pressing concerns to consumers, Direct Marketers have less and less data available to them. And, that's a good thing, I believe. We'll just have to learn to be smarter.

From today's DM News: House passes Senate SSN bill

"If the bill, HR 3046, is passed by the Senate, companies would be restricted in the ways they could use Social Security numbers.

“Federal, state and local governments would be prohibited from selling SSNs [and] displaying SSNs to the general public, including on the Internet,” the bill says. “[They would also be prohibited from] displaying SSNs on checks issued for payment and accompanying documents.”

The Direct Marketing Association expressed concern over the bill’s language in a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The DMA was looking for a specific addition to the bill that would say it is acceptable for marketers and companies to use Social Security numbers as long as it’s for legitimate purposes. The DMA seeks an exemption in the bill that would preserve critical business-to-business uses of the numbers for fraud-detection purposes."

Let's assume that this bill will pass (and it really should, right?). Financial marketers will simply need to be more clever in their fight against fraud, and in their abilities to make appropriate financial offers to their customers and prospects. For example, in the pre-screen arena (where marketers access consumer credit reports to extend the appropriate credit or loan offer to a consumer), the credit bureaus will need to figure out accurate matching without the use of SSNs (and they're already there, I believe).

We cannot fight the fact that consumers are fed up with their personal information being available to hackers or other bad people. Direct marketers need to go the extra mile to develop systems and processes that protect their customer data. We need to do this BEFORE legislation happens.

It's not enough for us to reluctantly comply with new regs. As an industry with intelligent data processing tools and a long history of working with data and databases, we need to innovate NOW in the areas of consumer privacy and data security.

I'd love to hear stories of how marketers are addressing the very real needs to protect consumer information. Horror stories of how they aren't are welcome, too.

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