IBM STEPS UP ON PRIVACY

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Congratulations to IBM Corp. for taking the lead among Internet advertisers in prodding Web sites to adopt privacy policies and to clearly disclose them to Web users. Now it's time for Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp., Procter & Gamble Co. and other major Web advertisers to follow IBM's lead and get more sites to address the privacy issue.

IBM's decision to spend its Web ad dollars in North America only with sites that present a clearly stated privacy policy immediately gets the attention of site operators and is a big step in the right direction. Given the unsettled state of privacy protections on the Web, consumers have good reason to be confused-and concerned-about what happens with their personal information when they visit Web sites. It's a problem technology alone cannot fix.

Leave it to IBM, a technology giant and the Web's No. 2 advertiser (after Microsoft), to come up with a non-technology solution to part of the problem: Give Web sites a financial incentive to do the right thing. Want some of IBM's $60 million Web budget? Then be upfront with your Web site's users about what's done with their personal information.

IBM's move also is an image and PR coup: A big seller of "e-business" technology smartly plants itself on the winning side of the privacy issue. But, on a broader scale, this is a potent private-sector response to a problem that can be fixed without government regulation.

Notably, IBM did not mandate a specific privacy policy. It referred site operators instead to organizations such as the Online Privacy Alliance (www.privacyalliance.org). Such groups have done the legwork that makes it easy for sites to implement privacy policies.

We hope other Web advertisers join IBM. Following the leader in an initiative that is pro-business, pro-consumer, pro-Web is good sense.

Cast wide net

Considering it will have $1.45 billion in tobacco settlement money at its disposal for a massive anti-smoking education program, the new National Tobacco Control Foundation will be at the center of one of the greatest social marketing experiments in this nation's history. But how broadly will it reach out for advice and help?

The anti-smoking and public health community can claim its own "experts," based on ad programs they run in a handful of states. And there are tantalizing reports, most recently from Florida, where research indicates anti-tobacco ads may be helping drive down youth smoking rates. The arguments about what communication approaches work or don't work, however, are going to be sharp and heated.

The new foundation's board, composed of representatives of state government and of the public health and medical communities, will be best served by casting a wide net. There will be a natural temptation to lean on the anti-smoking "establishment" for advice and help, but there are many, many professionals in the private-sector advertising and marketing community who likewise have a personal committment to reducing the toll taken by tobacco. And many have long experience in determining how marketing can best reach teens and kids.

The foundation's output will be a great test for advertising. For ad industry professionals concerned about smoking and kids, it's an opportunity to lend talent and advice to the public good-and to a group with funding available to test the best ideas. We hope ad people concerned about smoking will seek out the foundation. When they do, we hope the foundation has the wisdom to run an "open" program that creates the broadest possible alliance of health and communications