Email marketing poses the biggest risk to the privacy of UK consumer data, ahead of Internet, telemarketing and direct mail outbound marketing channels according to new findings.
The 2008 UK Study on Email Marketing Practices and Privacy found that the loss or theft of private and confidential data is endemic amongst UK firms with almost two-thirds (61 per cent) of marketing professionals experiencing a data breach involving the loss or theft of consumer information over the past 24 months.
In 90 percent of these cases the loss or theft went unreported since they felt that they were either not required to, or were unsure whether they had to, report the incident to the affected customer.
The issue is exacerbated by those firms who choose to outsource key marketing functions to third party providers.
According to the marketing professionals surveyed, data breaches were 42 per cent more likely to be attributed directly to third parties than to in-house personnel, illustrating the high stakes of outsourcing marketing campaigns for reasons of perceived cost savings or efficiency gains.
Email marketing, one of the most pervasive modern-day marketing tools, has traditionally been a function handed out to specialist email service providers (ESP).
Among those UK firms who outsource their email marketing, the incidence of data breaches rises from 61 percent to 78 per cent, a 28 per cent increase.
Managing director of StrongMail UK, Paul Bates, said, "A cavalier attitude towards outsourcing customer data to third-parties combined with complacent processes for keeping that data safe is a recipe for disaster.
“The fact is confidential customer data doesn't travel well and providing it to third-parties for outbound marketing purposes can, as the research shows, be a risky proposition.”
He added, “This data is extremely valuable to most firms, and we advise them to think very carefully about how they keep it safe."
Larry Ponemon, founder of the Ponemon Institute and author of the study,
However offers a silver lining to the issue.
"Although 60 percent of UK marketers outsource their e-mail marketing today, 65 percent of marketers would consider in-sourcing their e-mail marketing campaigns to ensure greater protection over personal data,” he said.
“The message is clearly, albeit slowly, getting home."
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