DMA: We Will Enforce Industry’s Web Privacy Guidelines

The online advertising industry has launched its self-regulatory online privacy program. But if the industry is to fulfill its ultimate goal—keeping regulators and legislators off its back—it needs broad compliance. Enter the Direct Marketing Association, which will act as the online ad industry’s cop on the block for the program.
On Monday, the DMA announced that it will enforce mandatory compliance with what had been voluntary privacy guidelines for all its members as well as all members of the Digital Advertising Alliance. 
The DMA is one of seven organizations that formed the DAA, which last year launched an online privacy program that uses an icon on interest-based ads that leads consumers to an opt-out page.
While there’s been some progress—billions of ads now sport the icon and consumers can opt out from more than 50 participating companies—there is a long way to go to achieve anything approaching universal compliance.
In December, the Federal Trade Commission, which suggested a universal Do Not Track mechanism, accused the industry of dragging its feet on self-regulation. The Commerce Department piled on with its own report, suggesting a Privacy Bill of Rights and a new Privacy Policy Office within Commerce. In Congress, Sen. John Kerry, D.-Mass., is busy circulating draft legislation.
To make sure companies participate in the self-regulation program, the DMA, which has a lot of experience with industry self-regulation, will use monitoring technology from Evidon to look out for compliance issues and investigate complaints.
Among the enforcement actions the DMA might take is publicizing its investigations. The organization could also censure, suspend or expel a company from its membership. Additionally, the DMA says that if it finds a company violated privacy law, it will refer the case to the appropriate federal or state authority.
“Self-regulation provided by industry is more beneficial to consumers than anything the government can recommend or implement, precisely because businesses are able to move more quickly in answering consumer needs than the legislative or regulatory process ever could,” said Lawrence Kimmel, CEO of the DMA.