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It’s all about the information

THE lucrative business of information broking is facing some major changes with the introduction of new privacy legislation in December this year.

It is hoped a push for greater transparency in the way businesses handle personal information will empower consumers, giving them the right to remove their name from databases or alter the details held on file.

One of the most significant areas in terms of privacy issues is the Internet, where massive quantities of data are transferred every day.

A significant number of emails sent every day are bulk mail or spam messages, offering dubious mass marketed schemes for everything from get-rich-quick schemes to weight loss programs.

The individuals or businesses that send out spams compile lists of e-mail addresses often inappropriately acquired from legitimate private databases belonging to major corporations.

Spam emails are intrusive and, like junk mail in your letterbox, are a waste of valuable resources.

Australian Direct Mail Association chief executive officer Rob Edwards said he believed the use of spam emails would taper off, though not necessarily due to the tighter privacy legislation.

“I think the spam thing will calm down because organisations that (use) spam harm their brand,” Mr Edwards said.

Junk mail delivered to letterboxes does not fall under the jurisdiction of privacy laws because it’s not addressed, but junk emails will be subject to the new laws.

The legislation has been drafted to be “technology neutral”, which means it will apply to all different mediums, both online and offline.

The Internet is obviously one of the biggest areas where personal information has easily been collected and collated for other uses.

But it’s not just private enterprise or dubious operators marketing suspect mass marketing schemes that hold the information. Governments have huge quantities of information and people increasingly want to know how this information is being used.

The state of Victoria has appointed the first privacy commissioner to keep track of how information is used by the Victorian Government.

“We were party to the group who drew up the (privacy) principles. It’s certainly struck a balance between the need for consumer protection and it allows business to compile information,” Mr Edwards said.

“Some organisations’ use of data will have to be far more transparent.”

The new legislation empowers individuals by providing the opportunity to opt out of databases or alter the details on their record, however it still allows for businesses to continue the regular customer relationship marketing.

For a bank this would include sending out information on new services that might be relevant to a certain group within the bank’s clientele.

The on-selling of data or data transfer only accounts for about 10 per cent of the market but it is here that the industry will be forced to make some serious changes to the way business is conducted.

Everyone on a list will have to be contacted before any information is passed on or on-sold.

With this greater transparency it’s envisaged individuals will have greater control of how their personal details are used. But only time will tell how this will affect the black market for databases or personal information.

Mr Edwards maintains greater transparency is a good thing for the direct mail industry in Australia

“Provided they’re (businesses) transparent and tell people what they are doing it’s fine. I think that’s a good thing,” he said.

List brokers Dun and Bradstreet maintain the new laws will not significantly affect on their work.

“We’re not really concerned,” Dun and Bradstreet national manager operations Anna Geor said.

“This won’t prohibit our general business from prospering. Australia is more prohibitive already and we don’t think it will significantly impact on us.

“We are fully basically compliant with the current legislation.

“If you want to pursue information you need (client) consent.

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