Consumer privacy is the buzz at @d:tech

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The Internet Advertising Bureau and Internet ad coalition Future of Advertising Stakeholders are moving aggressively to bolster the industry's consumer privacy policies as a way to head off regulation and address consumer fears.

At last week's @d:tech conference in New York, FAST floated the idea of a logo--a P with a circle around it--that would appear in banner ads and e-mail pitches as an assurance that the advertiser, Web site and ad-serving company have privacy policies in place. Consumers could click on the icon for specifics of how their personal information would be used and protected if they responded to the ad. Rich LeFurgy, chairman of the IAB and FAST, acknowledged the challenge of pulling together privacy policies of the sponsor, medium and serving company into a clickable icon. However, he contended, "We need to have something [about privacy] where the rubber hits the road, which is where the ads are."

In other issues concerning consumer privacy:

nFAST is exploring an online and offline public-service campaign to promote to consumers the benefits of target marketing. The argument is that collecting--while protecting--personal information allows marketers to tailor messages and offers, using the Internet to develop a more efficient marketplace that delivers better values for consumers.

* The IAB added new guidelines requiring members to post and adhere to privacy guidelines on their sites. Mr. LeFurgy said IAB members for the most part have privacy policies in place, but noted that some have not implemented policies because of their concerns about liability should a policy be violated. Mr. LeFurgy said he expects the Federal Trade Commission next year to require privacy policies, so the IAB is moving proactively to get them in place before there is government action.

* Mike Donahue, exec VP of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, predicted Web ad-serving companies will jointly implement a code of ethics on privacy of consumer data. Mr. Donahue said that will happen "not for any altruistic reasons, but for survival reasons" as the privacy debate heats up in Washington.

The FTC today holds a workshop on how Web companies are using data to profile and target consumers. Even as the industry steps up its self-regulation efforts, Forrester Research analyst Jim Nail warned: "I'm fairly pessimistic that we're going to avoid government regulation."

Copyright November 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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