On 4 February 2002, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) announced new rules governing the way its members use e-mail advertisements and treat consumers' personal information. The DMA issued the new rules as "part of a continuing effort to promote higher ethical standards among marketers." According to the DMA, members must:
Gartner applauds this effort of the direct marketing community to police itself. It has taken these steps for two reasons. First, the amount of spam and unsolicited commercial e-mail continues to grow rapidly. Gartner estimates that commercial e-mail from honest e-mail advertisers constitutes just 20 percent of the total. A public annoyed at the inconvenience of spam and alarmed at the potential abuse of their personal information increasingly pressures the government to step in with regulations. The DMA wants to prove the industry can regulate itself.
Second, the sheer volume of spam, especially from dishonest advertisers and scam artists, dilutes the effectiveness of legitimate commercial e-mail. DMA hopes that the new rules will help distinguish the honest e-mail ads more clearly and build trust with customers. In fact, Gartner believes that the DMA's rules mark only the latest in what will become a stream of initiatives intended to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys.
However, ethical practices in themselves will not suffice. The bad guys will continue to emulate the practices of the ethical senders. Recipients also need a way to authenticate a sender or check the validity of a vendor (see Gartner FirstTake FT-15-4249 "Truste Can Help Solve the Growing Problem of Spam"). Most of the "pure trash" spammers have sufficiently low budgets that they won't be able to take this step to keep up with the good guys. By contrast, ethical senders can add tags or keys without great cost, and doing so will enable them to keep consumers from associating them with those who continually annoy the recipients.
Analytical Source: Joyce Graff, Intranets & Electronic Workplace
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