"We are the self-regulatory enforcement for the entire data-driven marketing industry," she says. DMA issues rules and enforces them against their members and others throughout the industry. When a company is found to be out of compliance, DMA's ethics operating committee will engage with that organization to bring them in line.
In about 90 percent of those cases, the company will come into compliance following that step alone. Those that fail to adhere to DMA's guidelines will eventually be named and shamed in a press release from the DMA and turned over to the proper authorities if any laws are being broken.
When asked what consumers should do to protect themselves online, Thomas had little to add. After all, it's her and the DMA's opinion that nothing bad can come from the collection of personal data when it's used purely for marketing or advertising purposes. The worst thing that can happen is a consumer receives an ad that is completely irrelevant, according to Thomas.
"There's less concern or there isn't a concern about how to protect yourself because we make sure businesses are always doing the right thing to begin with," Thomas says. "The reason that this self-regulatory process works honestly is because these companies have really strong incentives to do the right thing by their customers."
Still, DMA receives about 20,000 complaints each year from consumers so clearly not all is well or right by users.
What Would Your Mother Say?
Although fast-moving changes in mobile and social media keep DMA's membership busy regularly updating guidelines, the fundamental principles applied to social media are the same as any other marketing channel. Data brokers must inform you about what data is being collected, provide choices about how they're being marketing to and ensure that data is only being used for marketing purposes, says Thomas. "What is problematic is when you tell consumers half the story," she adds.
Mike Volpe, CMO at HubSpot, shares many of those opinions and approaches the aspiration for privacy in social media similarly. "If you want to use social networking, but you really want to be extremely private with a lot of your information I would encourage folks to stick to Facebook or LinkedIn and use the privacy controls appropriately," he tells CIO.com.
"The information that companies collect about people online goes far beyond social media and probably the smartest thing you could do would be something like using the private mode on your browser," Volpe adds.
"As a marketer, the flip side of it is I can give you a much more personalized and hopefully a much more valuable experience with my company and my brand and my website if you're willing to let me know who you are. It's kind of a two-way street, right?" he says.
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