A very confusing survey?

The BBC is covering a survey commissioned by StrongMail, in which the company claims that “one in five [marketing professionals] said they had given out credit card details, one in seven would reveal information about customers political affiliations, and one in 10 would disclose their religious beliefs.”

Now I appreciate that the marketing profession hasn’t always had a good press, and that as with any profession there will always be a few mavericks, but surely the efforts of DMA and Chartered Institute of Marketing have achieved more than that? I’m going to remain very sceptical indeed about the sample of “marketing and data protection executives at 900 firms” since these are, by definition, very different job roles. Furthermore, it’s sadly uncommon to encounter such a thing as a “data protection executive,” since the role more normally sits at a junior level.

The only reported part that feels right is that “nearly 90% of these said the incidents had not been reported to customers.” That bit rings true.

I’d very much like to see StrongMail’s source data when it becomes available.

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The results of those who responded to the survey are segregated by profession, and we show the perception gap that exists between marketing and data protection executives. We believe that the breadth of that gap is one of the interesting findings evident in the study and shows that those responsible for creating and enforcing data protection policies at their organization must recognize that merely writing a policy doesn't mean it will be known, understood, or followed by everyone. As for any scepticism over willingness to disclose personal information, there may be plenty of instances where such sharing is within the bounds of a company's data usage/privacy policy. Caveat emptor, as the Romans say. But to suggest that the data might not be valid simply based on a hunch is irresponsible. Bottom line is that the study and its methodologies are sound, and the results are what they are. Mike
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I considered a rewrite of the blog article, but have instead placed the Ponemon response in the comments above. This is a classic case of a good report being let down by a poor press release. The sensationalist headlines about the Strongmail report were available well before the report itself was up on their website. The report comes from the well-respected Ponemon Institute, but I think Ponemon has been done few favours by the way the press has covered the document. I must stress that I have a lot of time for Ponemon and the work that goes on there. When a press release creates headlines such as “Survey Unearths Shocking Data Privacy Abuse by UK Businesses” then the data has to be available to back it up. At the time those headlines appeared it wasn’t even apparent that Ponemon was behind the survey, let alone what the data was. Timing is everything. The survey data is open to misinterpretation, and whilst the report does a good job of segregating data protection and direct marketing professionals, the press release ignores the difference. Whilst the two professions in practice share a centre ground of respect for personal information, they come at the issue from opposite ends of the spectrum. Furthermore, the press release is misleading in its claims about what organisations do now, and what they would do. Just because someone says they ‘would’ do something, that doesn’t mean they’ve already done it. I’m also unsure about where the press release got some of the wildest claims from. Ponemon’s report doesn’t appear to discuss religion or ethnicity, but there are some figures being bounced around about those. Could someone shed some light on the source of those claims? Finally, the press release talks about ‘organisations’ that would release data, not ‘marketing professionals’ that would release it. If you look at the sample, the release should be talking about the individuals, not the organisations.
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I agree- StrongMail made a huge mistake with this press article. This screams more of desperation in the space that they are in vs. Email Service Providers than anything else. StrongMail has without a doubt backed itself into a corner here and left holding the bag. Nice job marketing and PR at Strongmail...you hit this one out of the park!!!! I've talked with alot of people about the state of strongmail today...no one had anything optimistic to say about their management and CEO.
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