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BBBOnLine Creates New Privacy Program

The Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) in Arlington, VA said it is proceeding with the development and implementation of a major online privacy program through its subsidiary, BBBOnLine.

The council said it is "responding to the need identified by the Clinton Administration and businesses for a major self-regulation initiative to protect consumer privacy on the Net and to respond to the European privacy initiatives."

BBBOnLine has contracted with Alan Westin of Columbia University, a noted authority on privacy issues, to head up a group of privacy experts to help build the assessment components that will be blended with the BBB system's experience in conducting successful national self-regulation and dispute resolution programs.

"For months, leaders within the public and private sectors have been urging the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to devise and implement an effective privacy self-regulation 'seal' program that would fill the existing void for a program that would meet the needs of consumers and businesses in electronic commerce," said Patrick A. Flaherty, chairman of BBBOnLine and senior vice president-marketing, Sony Electronics.

"We're proud to announce that we plan to meet that challenge thanks to the support of several corporate leaders, with major stakes in the success of e- commerce, who have committed the funds to jump-start our program."

James L. Bast, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, cited the leadership demonstrated by Lewis E. Platt, chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, for helping to rally industry support for the privacy self- regulation initiative.

Dun & Bradstreet, IBM and Procter & Gamble have joined AT&T, Hewlett-Packard and Sony Electronics as full sponsors of the BBBOnLine privacy start-up. Additional financial and leadership support are being provided by America Online, Dell Computers, MCI Communications and J.C. Penney.

The program will incorporate experience from proven CBBB self-regulation and dispute resolution programs, including the CBBB's National Advertising Division, Children's Advertising Review Unit, BBB AUTO LINE, and the BBBOnLine "seal" program (which has approved 1,500 companies to display a seal at their Web sites, providing consumers with a means to check on the business's reliability).

The online privacy program will feature: privacy standard-setting, verification, monitoring and review, consumer dispute resolution, compliance "seals," enforcement mechanisms and educational components.

The BBB's privacy "seal" program, which incorporates the pertinent guideposts and self-regulation requirements outlined by the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce, is expected to "go live" late this year. The seal program would apparently compete with that of TRUSTe, an independent, non-profit, privacy initiative backed by a number of other companies.



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