Consumers see potential, too. It’s just that your vision and theirs may not be exactly the same.
The Federal Trade Commission is talking to data brokers now. Why should you care? If you use any type of consumer data, the outcome of those discussions will affect the way you do business.
The FTC has ordered nine major data brokers to provide information about:
- The nature and sources of the consumer information the data brokers collect; how they use, maintain, and disseminate the information; and the extent to which the data brokers allow consumers to access and correct their information or to opt out of having their personal information sold.
These brokers may be your data sources, or you may sell data to them. These investigations are not just about what brokers do. They will lead to new standards, and perhaps new laws, that affect the ways that your business must approach consumer data in the future.
There’s nothing new about individuals raising objections regarding the collection of data. As Margo Anderson, editor of Encyclopedia of the US Census: From the Constitution to the American Community Survey (second edition), said in a recent presentation, “The United States was the first nation in the history of the world to take a population census and use it to allocate seats in a national assembly according to population.” The objections began soon after, and continue to this day. Indeed, last year the US House of Representatives voted in favor of eliminating a key Census Bureau survey providing demographic information that thousands of businesses use, either directly or indirectly.
Even if you’ve never bought data from a broker, never looked at a Census Bureau report, be aware that consumers are demanding new standards for the handling of personal data. New requirements are coming, and they are going to affect you.
How can you prepare for changes that may be on the way? Think about the model set in the credit reporting industry. Consider how you might meet expectations for allowing consumers to determine what information you collect and store about them, and enabling them to correct errors in the information you keep. While there is no opt-out requirement in credit reporting, the heat is on for marketers and others to allow individuals to opt-out of data collection schemes. Other issues under discussion are the selling and sharing of data, and the combining of data from differing sources.
Simply put, the more powerful and informative the use of the data may be, the more strongly some individuals want out. Data disclosure and opt-outs will soon become industry standards, if not law, and you must prepare to comply. Are you ready?