Get Ready: Congress May Expand Powers of FTC & Other Legislative Updates

Promoting self regulation of the email and digital marketing industries has been a hallmark of the US Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) approach to regulation. Catching and penalizing spammers has always been a central part of the agenda, but new privacy legislation introduced this year in the House of Representatives, along with a proposed provision to expand the powers of the FTC would both have significant impact on email marketers.

The DMA/Email Experience Council held a second annual webinar with the FTC to discuss these issues, which also included Tom Bartel, Return Path’s chief privacy officer and VP, Receiver Services. I blogged about all the details for the DMA/eec.

Key issues:
1. Online Privacy. A “Discussion Draft” of a bill to require notice and consent to any individual PRIOR to collecting or using personal information was released in early May in the US House of Representatives from Representatives Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL). Industry and consumer groups alike are not happy with the draft, including the DMA.

Tom noted that including email address and IP address in the list of covered personal information data could have significant impact on transactions, ESPs/broadcast vendor use of data and marketing email messages. It may also impact the operation of Feedback Loops provided to email senders by mailbox providers like Yahoo! and Hotmail. “These feedback loops are a key component in how the industry keeps bad actors out of the email ecosystem,” he says.

2. Expansion of FTC Powers. Congress is considering significant expansion of the FTC as part of the banking bill in the House (HR 4173). While this may increase the “teeth” of the agency for prosecuting spammers, it may also give the FTC what DMA VP of Legislative Affairs Jerry Cersale calls “unbridled authority.”

3. New Permission/Privacy Legislation in Canada. Privacy legislation was re-introduced in Canada (CA-28) in May, with significant ramifications for any email marketer with subscribers in Canada. Even if you are based in the U.S, in the DMA/eec webinar, the FTC spokesperson emphasize the strong cooperative approach the two North American neighbors take to enforcement and prosecution. The intent of the legislation is to deter the most damaging and deceptive forms of spam, and to help drive out spammers, according to Industry Canada, a service of the Electronic Commerce Branch of the government.

Please do take a minute and read the full summary of the webinar, and post any comments below or on the DMA/eec website.

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