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  1. Technology
July 21, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

The former KGB plans to monitor every piece of data sent over networks in Russia; The Orange County Register bullies America Online into revealing the name behind a web site critical of the paper; New features in Communicator 4.5 store users’ personal details on a central database within Netscape Communications Corp, without notifying users that this is being done. It’s clear that the Online Privacy Alliance’s framework to protect consumer data is belated at best. The alliance was formed last month, the day before a summit on consumer information prvacy and with the threat of a legislative solution hanging over the industry’s head. Vendors don’t want laws put in place to control their use of consumer information. They keep insisting, through the OPA and other organs, that they are responsible enough to look after privacy matters themselves. Judging by the framework the OPA presented, it doesn’t look like they are. The guidelines call for the OPA’s 50 member companies to accept privacy seals from third parties like TrustE and the Better Business Bureau Online, and to submit to regular audits of how well they adhere to their own stated privacy policies. Commerce Secretary William Daley and Federal Trade Commission chair Robert Pitofsky aren’t impressed, pointing out that the OPA plan doesn’t give individuals access to information held about them, and that there is no particular provision for enforcement. Obviously not, since it’s not in corporate interests to have privacy regulations enforced. But there are signs that the FTC in particular is losing patience with the private sector. Pitofsky testified to a House Subcommittee today, presenting among other evidence a legislative model for protecting consumer privacy online, which included provisions for access and which, by implication, could be enforced by the weight of law.

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