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February 7, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

The US Department of Commerce is to split out retail sales over the internet for the first time which until now have been lumped together with catalog-based sales. It said Friday that the numbers for 1998 and 1999 will be made available around summer 2000. With the Federal Trade Commission head Richard Pitofsky standing alongside, Commerce Secretary William Daley made mention of six things consumers should do to help maintain their personal privacy while buying online, which included checking to see whether or not the web retailer has a privacy policy explaining how it uses personal data. All pretty obvious stuff, but it is at the heart of the debate over whether or not the US government should introduce European-style privacy legislation to force web sites to protect personal privacy or whether the industry can be trusted to regulate itself. Pitofsky’s agency has brought 58 cases in the last 14 months enforcing existing consumer protection laws and his staff are constantly patrolling the web looking for instances of fraud. Daley used Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Forrester Research figures to cite web-based sales figures for 1997 ($3bn) and 1998 ($9bn) and he predicted sales of $30bn for 2000.

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