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December 2, 1998

BBBONLINE LOOKS TO CONSUMER PROTECTION IN 1999

By CBR Staff Writer

By Nick Patience

The Better Business Bureau’s VP and general manager of its online efforts, Russ Bodoff got back to us yesterday to say that the organization has in fact concluded the testing phase for its BBBOnline privacy seal program with some 43 companies and its announcement this week was for the opening of the application process for those companies that wish to be among the first to display the BBBOnline seal indicating that they have an adequate privacy policy and are sticking to it. BBBOnline is part of the high-tech industry’s effort to self- regulate to stave off the threat of US government legislation to bring it in line with recently-announced stricter European legislation governing the transfer of personal data between the two continents. Bodoff was present at the White House e-commerce briefing on Monday. The compliance assessment model BBBOnline is being picked over the by a Georgetown University professor and Bodoff hopes that process will be finished within two weeks. At present companies cannot download the compliance model, an eight page document, until the analysis is complete. But companies will be offered a discount on the license fee if the sign up by March 31, says Bodoff. He adds that by downloading it they are under no obligation to license the seal. He hopes the program will be live by the end of the first quarter with a public launch shortly before that. Bodoff reported that White House senior policy advisor Ira Magaziner expressed satisfaction with BBBOnline’s approach to privacy self-regulation, and indicated that launching the system next year will not be a problem. Truste has had a rival system up and running for a few months now. Bodoff says Vice President Al Gore indicated the consumer protection would be the big issue on the web in 1999 and Bodoff says BBBOnline is well placed to work with the government on that as its parent organization has been involved with consumer protection in the non-wired world for more than 80 years. Magaziner is quoted in reports this week saying that the BBBOnline approach has the right amount of meat on it to stand up as industry self-regulation. However, most observers believe some sort of legislation is inevitable.

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