Advocacy is at the heart of why the Insights Association exists and how we help our members in the marketing research and data analytics industry create competitive advantage. As we ready to plunge into the 2020s, here is a look back at IA’s top seven advocacy wins from the last decade.

7. NTIA facial recognition best practices advance consumer privacy without hindering research

The final set of industry best practices for protecting consumer privacy in facial recognition technology, resulting from a two-year multistakeholder process overseen by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), advanced privacy safeguards while also carving out most research and analytics uses of the technology. Despite some contentious debate at the first meeting, where the Insights Association presented a white paper on the various research and analytics uses of facial recognition technology, the final NTIA facial recognition privacy best practices focus only on applications that are for identifying/authenticating an individual, and exclude most research and analytics uses of the technology.

6. New Hampshire push poll law fixed to legalize research telephone calls

New Hampshire S.B. 196 was signed into law in 2014, concluding a three year campaign conducted by IA and the American Association of Political Consultants to allow for unbiased political polling in the state. The original New Hampshire push poll law unintentionally biased research results by requiring the disclosure of sponsorship in many political and public polling calls. S.B. 196 not only clarified that survey and opinion research calls are not push polls, but also included the first statutory definition of survey and opinion research.

5. Amendments approved on federal data security legislation to protect marketing research

The House Commerce Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee approved legislation in 2011 that would have strengthened the security of consumer data, while also making two important changes crucial to the conduct of marketing research in the U.S. At the Insights Association’s urging, the subcommittee proposed and approved two amendments to the Secure and Fortify Electronic (SAFE) Data Act" (H.R. 2577), one to modify the definition of (and set boundaries for) personal information, in line with most state's data security laws, and another to prevent FTC rulemaking authority on the "data minimization" provisions.  While the SAFE Data Act did not advance further, it set the standard for much of the decade for how to carefully define personal information in data security bills.

4. Federal legislation introduced to protect marketing research companies from unfair U.S. Labor Department actions

In 2012, Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA-03) introduced the Research Fairness Act (H.R. 5915) in the U.S. Congress to prevent marketing research participants from being treated as employees of research companies. The Research Fairness Act, drafted by the Insights Association and the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA), was designed to clarify in federal labor law that marketing research respondents and mystery shoppers who receive reimbursement are independent contractors, rather than employees. Although the bill did not get signed into law, it provided guidance to the Department of Labor that curtailed potential actions since 2012, and marked the first time marketing research was specifically defined in federal legislation.

3. U.S. Supreme Court blocks the citizenship question from the 2020 Census

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Department of Commerce's attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census questionnaire in a 5-4 decision in summer 2019. The Insights Association had joined a SCOTUS amicus brief opposed to the citizenship question's addition in this controversial case, with 24 other companies and business groups, because the citizenship question hadn't undergone the necessary rigorous testing and would have jeopardized the accuracy of census data upon which nearly all the marketing research and data analytics in the United States rely for statistical benchmarking.

2. TCPA rules struck down by federal circuit court

On March 16, 2018, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals rejected some of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) rules issued in June 2015 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Insights Association was party to the successful lawsuit against the FCC regulations (ACA International v. FCC). The court accepted the Insights Association's arguments against the FCC's ridiculously-broad definition of an autodialer and the arbitrary and capricious one-call-before-liability standard for calls to reassigned cell phone numbers. While the FCC has not yet replied with regulations in response, despite extensive IA lobbying and coalition organizing, the court decision was a huge win for the survival of telephone marketing research.

1. The Physician Payments Sunshine Act

The Physician Payments Sunshine Act, passed into law as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), included a carveout for marketing research, such that incentives for physician respondents in marketing research studies don’t have to be publicly reported, as long as the pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturer clients are unaware of the identities of the respondents. The lobbying campaign began in summer 2007, when the legislation was in its infancy, built to a joint effort with then-PMRG to carve out MR in Obamacare, and culminated in the issuing of final rules from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services implementing the Sunshine Act in 2013. This federal recognition of the essential nature of marketing research interactions helped to fuel many other advancements (and dodging of regulatory bullets) across the decade.

Honorable Mentions

  • The federal Sunshine Act wasn’t the only big win for pharma MR this decade. We opened the decade by convincing the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy to legalize independent marketing research with prescribing physicians, successfully lobbied the District of Columbia to exempt marketing research respondent incentives for physicians from the city’s regulations, and near the end of the decade, we convinced the New Jersey Attorney General to exclude independent MR from the state’s new restrictions on pharmaceutical interactions with doctors.
  • And while the circuit court win against the FCC’s 2015 TCPA rules was a huge win, IA also won a crucial regulatory victory back in 2012 when it convinced the FCC not to treat marketing research the same as telemarketing in earlier TCPA regulations. The original draft would have required “express prior written consent” for research calls to cell phones using an automatic telephone dialing system, but we were able to get the FCC to focus its final restrictions on telemarketing robocalls.
  • Finally, while SCOTUS striking down the citizenship question was a big win, a lesser-noticed victory came on census issues came back in 2014 when IA helped to convince a Congressional committee to pull legislation from their meeting agenda that would have gutted the American Community Survey (ACS). At that time, the committee likely would have passed the bill easily if given the chance. Since then, our coalition’s lobbying has moved the needle to a point where attempts to graft similar language onto annual funding legislation are either added without debate and then easily removed later in the Congressional process, or are never introduced at all.

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