Is “Good Enough” really good enough?
Ode to the New MR

FTC vs. MR: A Fight to the Death?

That's at least what Quirk's email newsletter is telling me today. So what's the fuss? Something called the Best Practices Act (HR 5777), also known simply as "The Rush Bill." MRA has been sounding the alarm about this bill for some months now, and while I'm not a regular reader of Quirk's I gather that they've thrown in with the MRA. Their vision of the consequences of this bill passing are nothing short of apocalyptic, hence (I guess) the challenge to fight the FTC to the death!

Now I'm not a lawyer and I confess that I've not even read the whole bill. But I've talked to lawyers who have and they generally don't share this vision. What they tell me is that the privacy regulations it would put in place simply harmonize US privacy policy with that of the EU, a good thing for those of us doing global research. The main impact on research firms would to require a privacy policy that is akin to what firms who qualify for the US Safe Harbor program (and other certifications increasingly required by clients such as SAS-70) already have in place. In other words, it is just what it claims to be, a "best practices" law for privacy protection.

One forceful counter argument to what MRA and Quirk's are saying is the opinion offered by CASRO's legal counsel. Here I will quote just the conclusion:

While the market research industry can and should strive to improve the Bill, the Bill is a solid step forward to providing a needed comprehensive, federal privacy regime. The Bill will likely be deemed adequate by the European Union, thereby eliminating the need for the US Department of Commerce's Safe Harbor program and allowing US market research companies to more readily do business internationally. The Bill will also preempt and eliminate the confusing, expanding web of state privacy laws. Even in its current form, the obligations imposed should be not be unduly difficult for market research companies to comply with.

So the viewpoint here is that it's a good thing and will make life a lot easier, unless, of course, your privacy policy is in shambles.

As I said at the outset, I'm not a lawyer but others who are or who simply get a kick out of plowing through legislation like this generally agree with the CASRO viewpoint. And I also am not a regular Quirk's reader but I wonder if they are doing as good a job as they might reporting on both sides of this issue.