A last-minute campaign to raise consumer awareness of online privacy issues was announced at Internet World in New York last week by the leading Internet portal companies in an attempt to head off government intervention in the online privacy debate.
Following on from the formation of the Online Privacy Alliance (see PC Week, 30 June), eight companies have formed the Privacy Partnership with sponsorship from TRUSTe, itself an industry-sponsored online privacy organisation.
The companies are: AOL, Netscape, Microsoft, Yahoo, Excite, Infoseek, Lycos and Snap. The companies are donating $3 million (#1.8 million) in Web banner advertisements, or 150 million Web impressions. The banner ads take users to a TRUSTe site containing information about online privacy.
The ad campaign kicked off yesterday, and the Partnership had already attracted 77 other Web site companies at the time PC Week went to press, including Altavista, Netcom, GeoCities, IBM and C/NET, who will all display the ads. The campaign is expected to reach about 90% of all Internet users in the US.
The timing of the campaign is no coincidence, as the EU is to consider the introduction of strict personal privacy regulations at the end of the month (see Analysis, page 12).
The proposal for the new EU regulation states that "the transfer of personal data to a third country which does not ensure an adequate level of protection must be prohibited, (unless) the data subject has given his consent".
With the US government threatening its own regulation, US Internet companies are desperate to hang on to the right to collect user information, which validates their claim to high advertising rates. They are promising the US government that their efforts at self-regulation will work, but time is running out.
John Hooper, Director General of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, thinks they have left it too late. He said: "The key question is why US legislation affords lower protection for consumers. There is no way the EU legislation is going to change to accomodate the US."
- More Internet news, page 30.
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