June 5, 2014

The June 1 editorial “The dark world of data,” on so-called data brokers, wrongly disparaged the value of industry self-regulation. Contrary to the editorial’s claim, self-regulation has effectively enforced, for more than four decades, a set of high ethical standards for marketers who use customer data.

Consumers, editorial boards and policymakers at the Federal Trade Commission and Congress should hold businesses to those high standards. Tens of thousands of consumers already do this annually by filing a complaint with us. Millions more use industry-run services to exercise choice about what marketing they receive. Trust is the essential element of any brand-customer relationship, and marketers take very seriously the need to earn that trust by providing notice, choice and transparency around the collection and use of marketing data.

The Post also missed some of the nuance in the FTC report. Sensitive data regarding finances, health care and children are already regulated and should be. Hundreds of laws also govern important aspects of consumer privacy at the federal and state level. After two years of inquiry, no one has been able to find any harm to consumers from the use of marketing data: not the FTC report, not the White House “big data” report in April, not the Senate commerce committee review in December. Marketing data are used to send more targeted and relevant ads. That is a consumer benefit with tremendous value to our data-driven lifestyles.

Peggy Hudson, Washington

The writer is senior vice president for government affairs for the Direct Marketing Association.