ONLINE PRIVACY PRACTICES SCRUTINIZED: MARKETERS FACE 4 MAJOR CHALLENGES: NOTICE, ACCESS, CHOICE & SECURITY

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In the next few months, businesses, professional organizations and consumer groups will have the unique opportunity to prove that self-regulation of data practices can work in this information revolution. Our batting average so far hasn't proven we're successful -- yet.

The key issue is consumer privacy and fair information practices. Who should be concerned with this? All businesses that have relationships with consumers and collect personally identifiable information. That means most of us.

While we in the advertising community use technology to build the promise of one-to-one marketing and electronic commerce, the government and consumers are concerned with people's privacy and managing the flow of their information. These are tough issues that will have a long-term impact on our industry and society.

PARTNERSHIP CAN WORK

The results of a recent Federal Trade Commission privacy report are not promising. Of the 1,400 sites, only 14% provided any notice of their information practices and only 2% provided a comprehensive privacy policy (AA, June 8). The results on children were even more troubling to the commission. A recommendation for legislation for kids is already under way.

This week, the Department of Commerce will host hearings on the issue of data practices and privacy, and later this summer the FTC will make recommendations on consumer practices for adults. We still have an opportunity to prove that a partnership between government and industry can work. There are some simple things you can do right now.

* If you are marketing to kids, review the FTC recommendations for protecting children's privacy online, read up on the issues posted at the Center for Media Education (cme.org/cme), and get a children's privacy policy and Kids TrustE seal (www.truste.org).

* If your focus is on the general consumer, look at the FTC site (www.ftc.gov/reports/privacy3/toc.htm) and become aware of the issues.

* Make plans to meet the basic practices of notice, choice, access and security. Sign up for TrustE and post your privacy policy. (www.truste.org).

CREATE TRUST

Become involved and aware. Help make this partnership between industry and government a key element of creating the consumer trust and confidence needed to make the promise of electronic commerce, one-to-one marketing and the growth of digital media a reality.

Ms. Lemmey is chairman and founder of Narrowline (www.narrowline.com), an electronic commerce advertising business. She is also a board member of TrustE, a non-profit organization focused on industry-based privacy practices on the Internet. For more information on resources for privacy and data practices, go to www.diasystems.net.

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