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Internet industry group to focus on 'consumer protection'


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by Nancy Dillon

(IDG) -- The Internet Alliance (IA), a Washington-based lobbying group representing Internet industry companies, today said it will stop looking at Internet issues such as privacy, spam, e-commerce and encryption separately and pull them all under the unified umbrella of "consumer protection."

"We believe that consumers perceive issues such as privacy and e-mail as part of the same problem -- consumer protection. They may be concerned about unwanted e-mail and how an e-mailer got their addresses. But they also like choice and competition and the occasional targeted pitch tailored to their interests," said Jeff Richards, IA's executive director.

"We want to get ahead of this development and start looking at the connections between issues," Richards added.

Alliance members include America Online Inc., the Council of Better Business Bureaus Inc., IBM, Microsoft Corp. and Internet Billing Co.

Richards said the reorganization is the result of IA's acquisition by the Direct Marketing Association Inc. (DMA) last month. Whereas IA has less than 200 members, DMA has more than 4,000 direct marketers in its ranks.
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"The most important immediate action for us right now is to outlaw forged [e-mail] headings," Richards said. When companies cloak their identities with forged headings or invalid routing information, they chip away at consumer trust and render filtering tools ineffective, he said.

In related news, the Senate Commerce Committee passed a bill yesterday aimed at strengthening the use of digital signatures in e-commerce transactions. Titled the Millennium Digital Commerce Act, the bill would ensure that individuals and organizations in different states are held to their agreements even if their respective states have different rules concerning the viability of electronically signed documents.

Richards said the IA "appreciates different state approaches, but the time is fast coming for a single, worldwide approach to e-commerce." He said it's still too soon to say what those approaches ought to be, but that the IA "supports those who move digital signatures to the forefront of issues."

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) is expected to send the bill to the Senate floor for a vote "in prompt order," said Julie Teer, deputy press secretary for Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.), the author of the bill.

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Congressional committees pass crypto, digital signature bills
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