IIA seeks to patch up government legislation

The Internet Industry Association is looking to fill the gaps in Australia's imminent privacy laws, with the organisation launching its own Internet privacy code.

The IIA has been vocal on the issue of privacy since 1998 in an effort to combat consumer fears relating to the misuse of personal information collected online. Although the upcoming privacy laws will partially address this issue, the IIA believes that the new legislation "falls short of explicitly addressing concerns that will become barriers to people going, or transacting, online".

The draft code, which was launched by Federal Attorney-General Daryl Williams and Privacy Commissioner Malcolm Crompton, is targeting three major areas.

Information relating to children is under the microscope, with the IIA proposing that information from or about children under 13 years of age should be obtained with parental consent, and should be treated as 'sensitive' information.

Spam gets a serve as well, with the draft code pushing a move to permission-based direct-marketing models. The IIA felt that the issue needed to be addressed, given the implications that could arise from increasing amounts of spam, including poor network performance, costs incurred by spam recipients and basic inconvenience.

The final area of concern for the IIA was the need for compliance with EU privacy legislation. Spurred by US companies that have entered into safe-harbour arrangements with the EU, the draft code is seeking to create a similar concession locally.

Peter Coroneos, the IIA's chief executive, believes that because the code goes beyond legal requirements, it will be widely adopted within the industry. Companies wishing to trade with the EU are required to meet a higher standard than will be set by December's privacy regulations, according to Coroneos, and will be keen to subscribe to the IIA's more stringent code.

On the marketing side of things, Coroneos believes that companies brandishing the "IIA privacy code subscriber" symbol will also benefit from increased consumer trust, and subsequently reap the benefits financially.

"The lack of trust that presently permeates e-commerce, at least in the minds of many end users, means that the industry has to go that extra mile to deal with the natural reticence of people to deal with unseen entities in a virtual environment," Coroneos said. "Our Code does this by targeting three particular areas where we have raised the bar beyond what the law requires."

Coroneos believes that the code's enforceability through a government-backed co-regulatory regime is a world first in online privacy protection -- a feature that will not only give local players an edge in the global market, but will also help generate consumer confidence.

The IIA will accept comments on the draft for a period of seven weeks, after which it will submit the final product to the Federal Privacy Commissioner for registration.

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