Online Privacy 101

SAN FRANCISCO (07/25/2000) - The nonprofit advocacy group that has stamped its privacy seal of approval on nearly 2,000 Web sites will team up with a dozen major Internet companies to launch a consumer education campaign.

TRUSTe plans to announce its "Privacy Partnership 2000 Campaign" on Tuesday morning. The goal is to educate online consumers about privacy issues and individual rights through newspaper, radio and Internet advertising.

"Internet companies have stepped up to the plate and become TRUSTe certified," TRUSTe CEO and Executive Director Bob Lewin said in a statement. "We now want to make sure consumers know what the privacy seal means and how they can use it to stay in control of their personal information."

The campaign will feature full-page ads in 26 major newspapers next month explaining the TRUSTe seal. In addition, TRUSTe radio announcements will give tips on how to safeguard online privacy. On the Web, participating companies, including AltaVista Co., America Online Inc., Excite@Home Inc., IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp., RealNetworks Inc. and Yahoo Inc., have donated US$300,000 in banner advertising to the initiative.

The campaign will direct consumers to the Privacy Partnership Web site, where users can download privacy guidelines, peruse a glossary of privacy terms and connect to the TRUSTe Watchdog if they believe their privacy has been violated at a TRUSTe-approved site.

Anne Jennings, a spokeswoman for BrightStreet.com, a company based in Cupertino, Calif., that specializes in online promotions and is among the dozen participating companies, notes that some consumers mistakenly believe that the TRUSTe symbol means a company will not share personal information. In fact, it signals that TRUSTe has determined that a Web site's privacy statement follows fair information practices by disclosing what information is being collected, how it will be used, with whom it will be shared and the security measures in place to protect information from being misused.

"It's time to reach out to the less tech-savvy consumers," Jennings says.

The TRUSTe initiative was conceived prior to recent discussions by the Federal Trade Commission and in Congress about enacting online privacy laws, Lewin said. In June, another group led by the Washington, D.C.-based Information Technology Industry Council started its own "Privacy Leadership Initiative" aimed at speeding up the development of privacy technologies and giving consumers more control over security.

The TRUSTe campaign will complement those efforts with a more grassroots approach, says TRUSTe spokesman Dave Stear. In addition to the 12 companies that have donated banner ad space, any Web site can download and run TRUSTe's Privacy Partnership 2000 banner advertisements here. More than 1,600 Web sites donated ad space two years ago after TRUSTe launched its original Privacy Partnership Campaign.

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