Acting in the interests of customers is the best way to comply with data laws

Guidance, when it comes to dense data protection regulation, is an absolute necessity for direct marketers. When your whole reason to be is data-driven marketing it is essential that you know what is right and wrong in the eyes of the law.

Russell Parsons

The Direct Marketing Association’s move to clarify, decode and interpret the Information Commissioner’s Office’s September 2013 guidance on direct marketing is useful, then, for those trying to navigate a safe path though the regulatory minefield.

The DMA has bulleted ten points for its members in a bid to “help organisations understand and comply with existing data protection laws”.

There is some very useful stuff contained in the ten bullet points on subjects such as third-party consent, what constitutes solicited and unsolicited marketing as well as whether pre-ticked opt-in boxes can ever be used.

On the latter, the DMA and the ICO conclude that in the main consent means that consumers have taken a “positive action” but that in some “rare” cases it is “potentially acceptable to use pre-ticked opt-in boxes to obtain first-party consent”.

In the eyes of the law, I have no doubt that this is the case. However, direct marketers in this circumstance and indeed all when personal data is being used need to ask themselves and answer this question “is it the right thing to do?”

The desire among politicians to enshrine an individual’s right to protect their data was brought into the spotlight again last week when the European Court of Justice backed the principle that people “have a right to be forgotten”.

The ruling gave individuals with spent convictions the right to request Google and other search engines remove links to stories detailing past peccadillos from search results.

Predictably, there were a slew of predictions of Armageddon for brands but not related to the case in point. Predictions flagged up how the ruling underlined the mood among European lawmakers to tip the balance in the control of data firmly to the individual.

This is undoubtedly the case. It is also very much the case that people are demanding more transparency.  In an accompanying quote to the DMA’s guidance Mike Lordan, the DMA’s director of external affairs, said “being transparent and always putting the interests of the consumer first is the basis of building trust and encouraging them to share their information.”

That should be number one in any guidance list.

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