Privacy laws?

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It may be the issue that most worries marketers about the Internet: Privacy concerns could trigger legislative crackdowns that could set a precedent not only for Internet marketing, but perhaps for all direct marketing.

There is good cause for that fear. The Children's Online Protection Act that took effect in April has made it more difficult and much more expensive for marketers trying to reach children, imposing limits on the information that kids can provide online-even e-mail addresses-in an effort to prevent problems.

The Federal Trade Commission in May called on Congress to approve new privacy legislation. Marketers had increased their privacy efforts and disclosure through self-regulation, but that was not enough. The commission on a 3 to 2 vote called for legislation requiring Web sites to comply with four standards of privacy, notice, choice, access and security.

A number of bills were introduced in Congress and hearings were held. As the year ended, however, no legislation had been approved, an outcome that offered little relief to marketers who note that legislators including Sen. John McCain (R, Ariz.) have put privacy on the fast track for next year.

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