EDITORIAL: An American Named ‘Daisy’: What Data Network Affiliates And Narc That Car Can Learn From Andy Bowdoin And AdSurfDaily — And The High Potential For Backlash
EDITOR’S NOTE: Repping for Data Network Affiliates or Narc That Car, two companies in the business of recording license-plate data? Here are some things you might want to consider . . .
UPDATED 2:21 P.M. ET (March 5, U.S.A.) Data Network Affiliates (DNA) and Narc That Car (NTC) both say they are soliciting members to record the license-plate numbers of cars for entry in a database. Both are multilevel-marketing (MLM) companies. Both have become the subject of scrutiny by web critics who have raised issues of propriety, safety, legality and privacy.
Both companies should thank their lucky stars that the criticism, so far, largely has been contained to the web.
Last week, Dean Blechman, the chief executive officer of DNA, came out firing against the critics. Painting with a brush that was almost unimaginably wide, Blechman suggested the company is monitoring â€œeveryone thatâ€™s a distraction out there and anyone thatâ€™s printing stuff on the Internet or anywhereâ€ and perhaps preparing to sue. (Emphasis added.)
Yes, a company whose members say is in the business of establishing a database so customers can monitor cars as they move from Walmart to a “doctor’s office” to other locations (including churches) now says it is monitoring “everyone” and “anyone” who poses a “distraction.”
â€œIâ€™ll tell you one thing,â€ Blechman warned in an audio recording posted on DNA’s website, which lists an address in the Cayman Islands. â€œThey better be very, very careful of what they write . . . [b]ecause I have every intention of policing and pursuing every legal ramification . . . against anybody thatâ€™s reporting any information inaccurate to try to tear down what Iâ€™m trying to build here.â€ (Emphasis added.)
So, a company with a domain that uses a Cayman Islands address and does not say where its corporate offices are located — and a company that does not have a working Contact Form on its website and, according to members, is in the business of recording license-plate numbers in the United States in the parking lots of retailers such as Walmart and Target, supermarkets, churches and doctors’ offices — is sending a clear message to critics.
Blechman’s remarks also might have the effect of chilling DNA affiliates. Some are apt to interpret his comments as a warning that they’d best raise no questions about the company if they’re writing about it in Blog posts or in emails sent to prospects. Customers of DNA and Narc That Car are ill-served by sponsors who might be inclined to write reviews that are anything less than flattering because such reviews might upset management of the companies.
DNA’s own pitchmen have identified Walmart, Target, supermarket parking lots, parking lots at churches and doctors’ offices and “anywhere” cars are parked in a group as the sources of license-plate numbers.
One of the pitchmen who introduced Blechman in the recording in which Blechman warned critics was the same pitchman who told listeners in a previous call that the company envisioned an America in which DNA members would record the plate number of a hypothetical “red corvette” parked at Walmart, and then record the plate number again an hour later at a “doctor’s office” — and then record it again three hours later when it was parked elsewhere.
Blechman said nothing about the pitchman’s comments in the recording in which he threatened critics. Nor did he address a DNA video promotion by the company’s top affiliate that suggested DNA members should behave “inconspicuously” while snapping photographs of “cars” and plate numbers at Walmart on their iPhones, Blackberrys and notepad computers.
Whether affiliates need the permission of retailers, patrons, clergy, worshipers, physicians, patients or any party is left to the imagination. How the company can prevent abuses also is left to the imagination.
Instead of addressing the criticism, Dean Blechman turned his focus on the critics, thus creating the appearance that the company has no problem with its members taking photos of cars and license plates at Walmart, at places of worship and at doctors’ offices.
Until Blechman speaks on these issues publicly in a news conference or addresses them in an official news release available to the media and DNA members, it is not unreasonable for Americans to believe that, if they are seeking the private counsel of clergy, their license-plate number may be recorded while they’re inside their place of worship pouring out their souls — and the number will be entered in a database used to track the movement of vehicles.
And it’s not unreasonable for Americans to believe their plate number will be recorded while they’re inside the office of their physician, surgeon, psychiatrist, psychologist, attorney or other professional.
What’s more, it’s not unreasonable for Americans to believe their plate number will be recorded wherever they do their shopping or reading, including retail outlets large and small, libraries and shops that sell adult videos and magazines.
Blechman needs to speak to these issues before the MLM program launches March 1. And he needs to make it plain whether he approves of the practice of writing down plate numbers (or recording them on video) where Americans shop, worship, receive medical and legal advice and spend their casual time.
How does DNA plan to guard against invasions of privacy? How can it prevent database customers from abusing data it provides?
DNA’s own pitchman offered up the possibility that the company wanted to create records of the movement of automobiles and offer that information for sale to database customers. If this is so — and if you don’t want anyone to know you’re seeking the counsel of clergy, a medical professional or a legal professional — you should know that DNA appears to be building a database that will record various sightings of your license plate.
If you owe money to a finance company and are having money problems, the repo man very well might learn you are seeking the counsel of your clergyman or even your therapist. The repo man will get the addresses. He will know if your car was parked at the office of a psychologist or a heart surgeon, a rabbi or a priest, the public library or the adult bookstore, the City Hall building or the casino, the curb in front of your house or the curb in front of friend’s house.
If your name is Daisy, if you’ve recently had heart-bypass surgery and fell into clinical depression and are having trouble paying your bills because you aren’t healthy enough to return to work or you’ve been laid off, the repo man might be able to tell his client:
“Hey, Daisy’s car was parked in a surgeon’s parking lot. Then it was spotted in her shrink’s parking lot. Then it moved to a credit counselor’s parking lot. Then she visited her daughter. Then she visited the Catholic parish down the street from her house.
“You won’t believe where the next sighting was. The Salvation Army soup kitchen! Daisy is broke — and she’s a nutcase to boot!”
And what if the availability of the info is not limited to the repo man or finance companies? The United States could become a country of paid snoopers who recruit other paid snoopers.
Blechman’s response was to threaten to sue critics.Â One of the pitchmen who introduced Blechman said the company had recruited 37,000 members in just a few weeks. The database product is not yet available, but the manpower to populate it is — and members by the thousands are being urged to write down plate numbers.
Some members already have a supply on hand: NTC launched before DNA, which Blechman described as his “unbelievable vision.” From appearances, it looks as though NTC had the vision first — and DNA now is in position to benefit from plate numbers submitted by NTC members.
Leading with an elbow normally is frowned upon in business and often leads to even more intense scrutiny. Ask AdSurfDaily President Andy Bowdoin, who announced that the company had amassed a giant money pot to punish critics.
Here, according to federal court filings, is what Bowdoin told ASD members at a company rally in Miami on July 12, 2008:
“These people that are making these slanderous remarks, they are going to continue these slanderous remarks in a court of law defending about a 30 to 40 million dollar slander lawsuit. Now, we’re ready to do battle with anybody. We have a legal fund set up. Right now we have about $750,000 in that legal fund. So we’re ready to get everything started and get the ball rolling.” (Emphasis added.)
Yes, Andy Bowdoin publicly threatened to sue critics. He, too, painted with a wide brush, saying his warning applied to “anybody.”
Less than a month later, the U.S. Secret Service raided ASD. Prosecutors said the company was operating a $100 million Ponzi scheme and engaging in wire fraud and money-laundering.
Bowdoin’s lack of PR skills later contributed to other nightmares for members. Bowdoin, for example, described the Secret Service seizure of his assets as an attack by “Satan.” And he compared the government’s actions to the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
He later said his fight against the government was inspired by a former Miss America.
The concerns about the propriety, privacy, safety and legality of both DNA and NTC are real. The BBB of Dallas and the district attorney of Henderson County, Texas, have opened inquiries into NTC.
Because DNA is competing in the same arena as NTC, it is not unreasonable to ask the same sort of questions.
Dean Blechman is a longtime businessman. He could learn a few things from the PR mistakes of Andy Bowdoin, one of which was to attack the critics before addressing the issues and making the company’s operations crystal clear and transparent to thousands of affiliates and members of the public.
Video cameras? Cell phone cameras? Notepad computers? Pens and pads?
Professional complexes? Walmart? Target? Adult bookstores? Libraries? Church parking lots? Doctors’ offices?
For the repo man and who else?