Congressman warns AAF about coming privacy legislation

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Representative Edward Markey (D., Mass.) told the American Advertising Federation last week that marketers need to accept privacy legislation.

Rep. Markey told attendees at AAF's annual government affairs conference that privacy legislation eventually will pass Congress, and added that marketers' moves to delay the inevitable only serves to hold back growth of the Internet.

"My view is that you need regulation so people feel comfortable [on the Net]," Rep. Markey said. "You will be better off if consumers aren't spooked by the worst [Internet sites] in the marketplace, which give you a black eye."

WEB SITE BURGLARS

Rep. Markey, who last year proposed a Privacy Bill of Rights, maintained marketers haven't given consumers sufficient privacy choices. He compared some Web sites' privacy policies to "a burglary where it's OK if burglars leave a note saying exactly what they have stolen."

He also said Congress, which has offered privacy law protection for children under 12, needs to look at offering protection to older kids as well.

However, he said marketers' biggest worry should be that growing concerns about privacy are stunting the growth of the Internet.

"The day will come when we will pass [the Privacy Bill of Rights]," he said. "I would argue that that is better for you sooner than later."

`OPT-IN' WORRIES

Rep. Markey, who sits on the House Commerce Committee, was among a number of legislators who spoke at the annual conference. Rep. Michael Oxley (R., Ohio), another member of the commerce committee, said he worried that requiring consumers to "opt in" on privacy would hurt electronic commerce.

Separately, conference speaker Dan Troy, an attorney specializing in First Amendment issues, warned that advertising is "under assault," suggesting politicians looking for quick answers to social problems are trying to limit advertising.

Mr. Troy also said some local tobacco curbs now winding their way through the courts would have little practical effect on advertising, but could set bad precedents for other industries.

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