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Privacy commissioner: New privacy laws can help marketers build trust

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Pilgrim and Sangster speaking at the ADMA event.

Commonwealth privacy commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has urged the marketing industry to embrace the new privacy laws arguing they can be useful in showing they are listening to consumers and build trust.

Speaking at the Association of Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA)’s Data Day in Sydney Pilgrim reminded the audience that they now needed to be very clear with consumers about notifying them of their privacy policies and giving clear opt outs.

“You need to be very clear about when you are going to be in contact with them and be very clear about what they’re options are for limiting that contact,” Pilgrim said in a conversation on stage with ADMA CEO Jodie Sangster.

“That gets back to the requirements under the new direct marketing provisions,” he said.

“It’s seen as a bit of a negative, we appreciate that, for parts of the industry but we see it as a positive to build up the relationship where you say we are going to give you the option (to unsubscribe) every time, we have a product that we think is going to be good for you but at the same time we respect your choices.”

On March 12 of this year new privacy laws came into force which established 13 Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) outlining how personal information can be collected, handled and processed, and used for marketing purposes.

The principles govern communications with customers and a requirement to allow customers to opt out of marketing communications at every opportunity.

The Privacy Commissioner also said he understood the industry’s challenges around getting consumers to engage with privacy policies but said their research showed it helped build trust and avoid problems.

“It is really difficult to get people to read privacy policies. I acknowledge that,” he said. “But when you look at the research, which we did last year, we still get 95 per cent of people saying we really want to be told what is being done with our information.

“And we also found that 60 per cent of people who responded to our survey said they would be less likely to do business with an organisation because they didn’t like what was going to happen with their personal information.”

Pilgrim also acknowledged what Sangster termed “the elephant in the room”, his powers to issue fines of up to $1.7m to companies found to be in breach of the Privacy Amendment Act.

However, the commissioner signalled that he would be not rushing to issue fines, but rather wanted to work with all sections of business, including marketing and said clear policies could avoid trouble later on.

“You should be careful when putting out privacy policies because it is building up those expectations about what is going to happen and it will prevent issues down the path,” he said.

“It is when people say ‘where did this come from? I don’t know who this company is, I didn’t expect them to use this information’ – these are the things that we constantly hear.

“There is a lack of clarity when you are building up that relationship with the customer in the first place.”

Last month ADMA CEO Jodie Sangster took part in a hangout with Mumbrella to discuss the changes to the Privacy Act.

Nic Christensen

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