Do you think that your company has its online security and trust practices completely bullet proofed? I’m willing to bet hard dollars (or at least donuts) you are wrong, and a recent experience only makes me more confident that I’d win that bet more times than I’d lose it.
I’m sort of a geek, so my kids have had email accounts since before they could say “email.” I recently moved my 11-year-old onto a new account and had his old account diverted to me. Wow, talk about a spam trap. The stream of potential spam covers all sectors – online dating, restaurants, travel, clothing, daily deals – including many reputable brands through affiliate senders. What on earth could an 11-year-old have done to attract so much spam?
Sending email to 11-year-olds isn’t a crime. But, collecting personal information, including email addresses, from kids under 13 without parental consent is. The US has a Federal Act –– the Children’s Online Protection Act (COPPA) which prohibits this. So, to some degree, every company mailing my son’s account may be breaking the law.
I’m pretty confident that most of these companies are not doing this on purpose. But ignorance is not a defense and moreover, knowing the rules and what your company is doing is a large part of ensuring a trusted marketplace online.
But that is my point. The internet is a fast moving place. When it comes to email best practices, laws and compliance, it can be hard to know where to start and what the latest issues are.
That is why Return Path is actively involved with the Online Trust Alliance (and why I serve on the Board). OTA’s mission is “… to increase consumer protection, transparency and control of their data, online activities and transactions, thereby enhancing online trust and confidence and the long-term vitality and innovation of internet based services.”
One of the ways they do this is through education to businesses providing services online. OTA identifies key issues affecting online trust and provides prescriptive information to manage them. I encourage you to visit their website, browse their resources and consider joining.
I also encourage you to attend their 6th annual Online Trust Forum – “Realizing the Promise of Trust” at the Washington Plaza Hotel, Washington, DC, October 17-19.
The keynotes and panelists for this years’ event are superb, including Rich Boucher, former U.S. Congressman; Julie Brill, FTC Commissioner; Andrew Goldberg, CEO of Publishers Clearing House;and Michael Tchong, Founder of Ubercool. Not to mention Return Path’s President, George Bilbrey and our Chief Security Officer, Sam Masiello.
In addition to the conference speakers and panels, the forum includes an optional set of training, including courses on Email Authentication and Email Regulatory Compliance. These are great courses, and exactly the types of training that companies need to avoid doing what I was seeing – collecting data from and marketing to minors via email.
You might not think you need it, but you probably do.
And here’s a great incentive for you — because we’re actively involved with the OTA, we’ve secured a great offer for Return Path fans and followers – we are offering OTA members a 50% savings for the OTA Training Academy and Forum. To take advantage, simply use code OTARP during registration.
See you there!