Friday, January 18, 2008

DMA: Privacy on a Shoestring

The illustrious Direct Marketing Association seems to be incapable of protecting my privacy, even among its own members. There is a form you can fill in, but only if you use Internet Explorer. Firefox and Opera aren't supported, even though most privacy-savvy users prefer Firefox with the NoScript extension enabled, and script blocked by default.
If you update your details you get an error message to say "You are already registered", and when I asked, they were unable or unwilling to tell me whether this meant that the data was thrown away or updated. Their "Do Not Call" database has me listed 3 times: twice with the same ID number (records 151759 and 185048) and once without my ID number but with my current address (record 193686). My wife is listed twice, but only with her maiden name, and we've been married for 7 years. So much for data accuracy.
Since DMA members are under no obligation to report back to the DMA, all my requests to FNB, Nedbank, Absa, Sanlam, Standard Bank, Cell-C, Autopage, Discovery, MTN, and the many other companies I have warned against sending me junk mail or SMS mssages, have not been reported back to the DMA, so my information is still woefully out of date.
As a database programmer I understand the complexities of keeping information up to date and accurate, but this is a simple flat file database with no field for first name, only initials. (Huh?) These guys are supposed to be protecting my privacy, but in my experince it is all window dressing. If not, why would MTN, Barclaycard and now Woolworths, all sent me unwanted marketing messages without even bothering to check to see if my name is on the list?

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