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High-tech trade group unveils Net privacy principles

IDG.net
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(IDG) -- Internet privacy legislation should be developed only by the federal government to ensure that online businesses don't have to worry about 50 conflicting sets of privacy rules from various state governments, the U.S.' largest high-tech trade association said on Thursday.

The AeA, the former American Electronics Association, released its eight "principles" for developing Internet privacy legislation to Congress with that point in mind, said William T. Archey, the AeA's president and chief executive officer, in an interview. This is a shift in thought by the trade group, which represents the likes of Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. In the past, the group has proposed voluntary controls by industry on Internet privacy.

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"There is a greater danger this year of 10 or 15 states going ahead with privacy legislation that would make preemption more difficult after the fact," Archey said.

Consumers and businesses would lose if Internet privacy were regulated through numerous pieces of state legislation, Archey said. Federal legislation should not attempt to replace or impede constructive private sector efforts, but rather build upon the groundwork they have laid down, he said. If federal legislation is crafted poorly, it could be burdensome, costly and allow businesses to offer less free content to consumers, he said.

As for the actual provisions of the principles, the AeA is recommending that Web sites give notice when they plan to collect personally identifiable information. Users should be notified of what type of information will be collected, how it will be used and whether it will be given to a third party, the AeA recommends.

The principles also recommend such things as allowing consumers to opt out of the use or disclosure of their personally identifiable information, utilizing private sector privacy codes and seal programs and letting the Federal Trade Commission use its existing authority to enforce the mandates of the federal Internet privacy legislation.

"What we are saying is that if you go beyond the bounds of these principles, we are going to have a major league problem," Archey said.

Another major U.S. information technology trade group, the Information Technology Industry Council, which represents the 30 largest IT companies in the U.S., still largely advocates industry self-regulation over privacy issues. But it also plans to soon begin education efforts with Congress over the consequences of Internet privacy regulation on the Internet and electronic commerce, said Connie Correll, a spokeswoman for the organization.

Congress is expected to begin discussions again on Internet privacy legislation in the next few months.




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