Monday, September 12, 2005

Smartmoves (TM) and privacy

Today (Monday, September 12) is the deadline for responses to Canada Post's invitation to Canadian publishers to collaborate in launching a "consumer" magazine tentatively called Smartmoves.

It would apparently be a controlled circulation title, sent to everyone who files a change of address with the post office. At the moment, the content can only be speculated upon -- likely to be a highly "lifestylized" book and a kissing cousin of magalogues everywhere.

There has been much gnashing of teeth among industry groups about the government, or a Crown corporation, competing with the private sector publishers. That's a real question, every bit as much as it has been for Food & Drink, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario's glossy catalogue or a similar book in Nova Scotia.

But nowhere has there been any discussion of privacy. Government legislation is causing no end of grief for magazines and other direct mailers who are forbidden to solicit from acquired lists or to sell lists without the recipients' express permission. And while that's probably as it should be, how is it that the post office -- the only option for most people -- is able to take change of address information and convert the data into a mailing list to send an un-requested magazine?

Going into competition with its own customers is not the smartest move Canada Post could make, but it will be interesting to see how many of Canada's largest publishing companies (all of whom do contract publishing to a greater or lesser degree) will bite at the proposal.


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