Great News for Telemarketers!

Not that I’m suggesting that trends in our modern service-based economy might ultimately make the headline a ‘grabber’ for many more of us in the future than might find it appealing at this moment – but the simple fact is that our government has opened a floodgate that will madden the mainstream even as it fills the wallets of fringe factions. Like telemarketers. Here’s how:

Way back in 2003, the US Federal Trade Commission implemented a Do Not Call (DNC) list and began enabling registration of phone numbers by those wishing to ‘opt out’ from receiving calls by telemarketers. And, since then, the average number of telemarketing calls received by the more than 70% of households signed up with the FTC fell off by a significant percentage. Enough to consider the program a success – though Wikipedia notes that “… many journalists and victims of fraudulent calls and Do-Not-Call violations have extensively documented ongoing and widespread inaction and lack of enforcement by the FTC.” Some such ‘shades of gray’ notwithstanding, the greater good seems obviously served.

Yet, notably absent from the regulations those many years ago and lasting up to today: political organizations, pollsters, and charities. Oh, my. I won’t waste words complaining about the increasing numbers of calls from charities I must fend off each month. That might make me seem petty and uncaring; and I prefer that those traits not be inadvertently attributed to me by mere exposure to my blog when instead they could be gleaned by a tedious process of interviewing my family and friends. Such as they are.

When politicians were asked to agree to respect the DNC and shut down their direct connections to constituents (they could not otherwise reach via any other means) to deliver important rhetoric personalized for household-level consumption… they said NO. How many NO’s have to be said to qualify for capitalization of both letters? Consider this: among all the politicians across the local, state, and federal levels of government – numbering 513,200 by a Web authority – only 3 agreed to respect the DNC list by suspending contact. So, am I sensationalizing the issue? NO.

Thanks in part to the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizen’s United, the degree of difference between political parties, their fundraising arms, Super PACS, pollsters, and fraudsters in general has become indistinguishable to the average citizen as they field growing numbers of phone calls each day as elections grow closer. Moreover, just as ‘Christmas Season’ for retailers now precedes Autumn and extends to Spring, the political season seems to be in continuous harvest mode without pause for either thought or action, as evidenced by the incessant ringing of my DNC-listed phone. Sadly, it seems to be a prudent course of action to avoid complaining too much about politicians being exempt from respecting the Do Not Call list given that they also have access to the Do Not Fly list. I do not want unfairly to become a ‘person of interest’ as a consequence of being a person with little interest in politics.

I had slightly more interest in politics in prior years. Back in 1976, for example, I was a page at the Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City. One thing I learned quickly is that pages do not have a formal training program, so when I was delivering deli sandwiches to Robert Strauss – the Party Chairman at the time – I unwittingly violated protocol and asked him a direct question: “don’t you guys have the money to bring in a catering company?”

The real question could have been: “why would I want to be a politician?” And, to his credit, he answered as if he’d heard that instead of the original one. His answer? “Son, if it was a cushy job, the wrong people would want it.” He was the last politician I’ve had direct contact with. And, to this day I realize that most constituents have had the same experience – limited exposure to the policymakers and more to the administrators. So, if I get a tidal wave of pollsters calling day and night, I’m apt to suffer in silence. I don’t ‘know a guy’ in government, and I don’t think my voice in this debate will turn the tide.

I’ve thereby become inured to repeated violations of privacy at the behest of politicians who would otherwise protect that privacy with DNC – if not for their own conflict of interests. Thus I can tell you that the reason I think we’re doomed to increasing violations of DNC by telemarketers is that they now know that we are getting slammed with calls and have lost the will to document/report/expect justice. The reason I think more of us are doomed to become telemarketers will have to wait for another day/discussion.

So why should a content management expert care so much about violation of privacy, you wonder?

The government snuck in an exemption to the DNC that they now take overwhelming advantage of… and others are sneaking into my house behind them based on the logical presumption that I’m now too weak to fight.  My further logical presumption: that even
as people don’t know how to handle reductions in rights personally, they’ll have the same problems professionally
. Just as I don’t really know who to call when I have a complaint about calls, I don’t know how to document a complaint about a lost document or email online. Nor do I know who in the government is responsible for consumer protections around Content in the Cloud. So, the logical question to ask is: “If you are working on a document online – in Google Docs, for example – and it disappears, what remedy do you have?”

If you are a large enterprise, someone is already dealing with consumerization issues and can effectively explain that each site has Terms of Use (TOS) or End User License Agreements (EULA) that limit their liabilities in case of loss, downtime, corruption, unauthorized access, etc. They might also explain that the government – which has lots of reasons to want to sift through them – is very happy that the biggest Cloud hosts now contain larger and larger pools of documents because they can more easily reach out to public companies/public hosts (Google, MSFT certainly) and gain access to far more purportedly private stuff than ever before: “As stated in our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, Google complies with valid legal processes seeking account information, such as search warrants, court orders, or subpoenas.”

Privacy is equally tenuous in the online information age as it was in the telecommunications age. Perhaps more so because we’ve been trained to self-serve in response to losses we incur. Put that in the FAQ under ‘disillusionment’. Do you think the government will add protections that might thereby limit its access to huge aggregates of Internet-based information? Uh, NO.  And, do you think as consumers we’re engaging in risky content behaviors as a consequence of new devices, collaboration, and storage options? Uh, YES. Maybe those factors have compelled me to work for a company solely focused on Content Risk Management instead of becoming a politician. It’s possible that investigating opportunities to provide better safeguards for information even as the processes surrounding it get optimized for the mobile/Cloud age qualifies as a kind of activism. But it may not change the world. Sorry, Mom.

About Toby Bell

Toby has over 25 years of leadership experience in technology strategy, analysis, development, and delivery. He's managed people, products, projects, and profits equally well. His work history ranges from marketing and communications to software design and development to global consulting to technology research and analysis to business leadership. He has provided strategic advice to many companies; has written a strong body of research; is widely quoted across technology and business media; and has been a keynote speaker for Ernst & Young, Arthur Andersen, Gartner, and their clients. Toby Bell has spent over 30 years as a global technology executive with experience ranging across enterprise technology strategy, analysis, development, and delivery. His perspectives about idealizing the interplay between people and emerging content, analytics, and process technologies stem from a balanced career as an enterprise end-user, industry analyst, and vendor in this evolving marketplace. Toby has provided strategic advice to many companies; has written a strong body of research; is widely quoted across technology and business media; and has been a keynote speaker on behalf of Ernst & Young, Arthur Andersen, Gartner, IBM, AIIM, and their respective clients.
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1 Response to Great News for Telemarketers!

  1. Toby Bell says:

    According to Slate, as of today: Every six months Google publishes transparency reports to disclose how many requests it has received from government agencies to hand over user data or take down content. Today’s figures reveal Google received 20,938 inquiries from government entities around the world for user data in the first half of this year—a 55 percent increase in requests received during the same period in 2010. The United States by far made the most requests for user data, submitting more than one-third of the 20,938 received. India was second, followed by Brazil.

    Google says it has complied with 90% of the requests for information.

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