Most marketers understand privacy needs to be a central component of any marketing program, but grasping the many issues customers lump under the "privacy" heading can be a challenge, according to Trevor Hughes, executive director of the E-mail Sender and Provider Coalition (ESPC).

In today's information economy, the currency is data, and that data is moving faster every day. That means almost everything a person does is recorded somewhere, and that leads consumers to combine many disparate concerns under the heading of privacy, Hughes told a crowd of marketers during a keynote address at the ClickZ Specifics: E-mail Marketing conference in New York.

"Consumers think of privacy as [everything from] intrusion and annoyance to ID theft and actual harm," Hughes said. "They are reacting to new marketplace dynamics with real concerns they put under the heading of 'privacy,' but it means lots of different things."

Issues of intrusiveness or clutter are often described in terms of a privacy issue, which in e-mail marketing manifests as spam. Privacy also encompasses more insidious wrongs, like phishing, where a consumer is actually harmed. Marketers need to understand the various elements that consumers consider privacy and address them in real ways, Hughes said.

"This is the reason we need to embrace authentication, accreditation, and reputation as the primary tools in our arsenal to protect the trust in our e-mail channel," he said.

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