President Obama's highly anticipated speech on government surveillance practices also took aim at commercial data practices, putting the data-driven marketing industry on notice.
"Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze your data, and use it for commercial purposes," Obama said. "That's how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically," he said.
In his speech, Obama not only prescribed changes to the government's intelligence-gathering agencies, but he also called for a "comprehensive review of big data and privacy." The review, to be led by long-time advisor John Podesta, would include a panel of government officials who will reach out to privacy and technology experts and business leaders to "look at how the challenges inherent in big data are being confronted by both the public and private sectors; whether we can forge international norms on how to manage this data; and how we can continue to promote the free flow of information in ways that are consistent with both privacy and security."
Since the Edward Snowden revelations, the Direct Marketing Association has been lobbying hard to separate consumer privacy and data security issues from government surveillance, obviously to no avail.
"[The] DMA was disappointed to see the responsible use of consumer data for marketing purposes conflated with 'government surveillance,' Rachel Thomas, the DMA's vp of government relations, wrote in a blog post.
That may be a tough hurdle to overcome. Consumer privacy has been a focus of the Obama administration ever since the Commerce department released a report calling for a consumer privacy bill of rights in February 2012. And now that the president has thrown commercial big data into the mix, it could reinvigorate lawmakers' efforts to push legislation aimed at marketers and big data.
As part of its campaign to separate the issues, the DMA recently released a far-reaching study quantifying the contribution of the of the data-driven marketing industry to the economy at $156 billion.
"For more than four decades, [the] DMA has ensured that data is used responsibly across the data-driven marketing industry, creating and enforcing Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice to ensure that consumers have robust transparency and meaningful choices about how data is used for marketing purposes," Thomas said.