Who: The UK Information Commissioner
Where: Direct Marketing Association conference, London
When: February 2013
Law stated as at: 8 February 2013
Christopher Graham, former Director General of the Advertising Standards Authority and now UK Information Commissioner, gave the keynote address at the Direct Marketing Association’s “Data Protection 2013″ conference.
The event was largely given over to proposed reforms of the EU Data Protection Directive and in his presentation, the Commissioner pulled no punches when it came to how he recommended the DM industry contributed to the process of finalising the legislation as it made its way through the Brussels law making process.
His first tip was to behave responsibly when it came to data protection and to be aware that the EU legal system recognised data protection as a fundamental right. This contrasted for instance with the US, where data privacy was simply a consumer protection issue.
DM industry should support data regulators
It would also help ward off over-strict data law reforms, he continued, if the DM industry showed an attitude of support towards data regulators, rather than criticising their efforts.
For example ICO had been accused of all sorts of things in its efforts to implement and enforce new cookie laws, he said, when a calmer and more rational approach to ICO’s efforts and the efforts of other regulators in this space would be much more likely to change minds amongst those involved in the Brussels legislative process.
Responsible behaviour, he went on, included not being “tricky” with consumers when it came to handling their personal information, as today, consumers were much more aware and questioning.
Any hoped-for softening of the current draft Data Protection Regulation would not be achieved, he emphasised, by the DM industry adopting an attitude of defiance. Practitioners had to accept that long gone were the days when you could take consumers’ personal data and do what you liked with it.
No whingeing about “the end of marketing”
Therefore the industry must engage constructively with regulators and law makers. Cries of “It’ll be the end of marketing as we know it” would simply not wash. A more positive contribution to the process would be much more likely to produce results, such as suggesting specific changes to the current drafting, backed by calm and rational arguments.
Why this matters:
With potential opt-in for all marketing channels, bans on profiling and list trading and a new, “explicit” ingredient for any meaningful consent, the DM industry must certainly be on its mettle in its lobbying efforts, so the Commissioner’s words are timely, with a crucial vote due in leading committee in April 2013 and a plenary vote slated for the end of 2013.
The DMA is doing all it can both at grass roots by providing its members with a lobbying tool kit and through FEDMA in Brussels.
Time will tell whether these efforts and those of key actors such as ICO, which has openly expressed deep reservations with many of the proposals, bear fruit.