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Data Protection

17th March 2006

Elements of new research conducted by Kytemark on behalf of Opt-4 have confirmed some things that we have been thinking for a long time.

Advertisers are not paying enough attention to their opt-out/opt-in rates. Marketers test everything else, the creative, data, offer, price, but they don't seem to think about what they can and can't do with data as a result of the statements their prospects and customers are offered at the time they submit their data. Advertisers seem to spend little time and effort testing to see how phraseology can encourageor dissuade a customer to allow personal data to be used by the advertiser or third parties.

Almost none of the companies interviewed could say - even anonymously - what their opt-out rates were. I find it hard to believe are allowing the data asset to slip into an ever-growing pot of unusable data. It may be when a company decides to sell that the potential acquirer finds that a large part of the data is worthless.

Respondents to the Opt-4 research repeatedly said that the Information Commissioner has had little or no visible impact in enforcing data protection law. However, in his last annual report the Commissioner noted receiving nearly 20,000 complaints, including around 5,000 requests for assessment. Those figures look set to continue to rise now that consumers have woken up to the control they have over their data.

At boardroom level, directors ignore these issues at their peril. The IC would like to have greater powers to fine those who are committing offences under the data protection and electonic communications regulations. Surely it is better to act now rather than be scared into compliance when he finally gets them.

Opt-4 would suggest that best practice is best business, and that a strategy to collect data fairly and compliantly should happen now as good commercial practice.  

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