Consortium Plans Privacy Guidelines

FRAMINGHAM (04/18/2000) - A new organization that plans to set Internet privacy guidelines and force its members to comply with them was greeted with skepticism by privacy advocates.

The Personalization Consortium, based in Wakefield, Massachusetts, announced its founding on April 5 by 26 companies that represent a mix of established and start-up businesses, from American Airlines Inc. and KPMG Consulting LLC to DoubleClick Inc. and E.piphany Inc. Most members are vendors.

The group's stated goal is to promote standards-based development of Internet personalization technology and the ethical use of it. As part of its efforts, the consortium will develop privacy guidelines and require its members to undergo an independent audit to ensure that they abide by them, said Bonnie Lowell, chief technology officer at the consortium and CEO of YouPowered, a New York-based personalization start-up.

The consortium's initial guidelines include providing consumers access to their personal information, "responsible" linking of online and off-line information, and criteria for opting in or out.

The guidelines, however, did little to persuade privacy advocates that the group will protect consumers.

A key issue is how the consortium will handle the linking of online and off-line information. Lowell said linking the two sources of data should be done in a "cooperative, permission-based manner." But Jason Catlett, president of Junkbusters Corp. in Green Brook, New Jersey, said the consortium doesn't go far enough.

"This looks like an attempt by DoubleClick to provide cover for what it's already doing," he said.

"Real standards" are needed, not more self-regulation, said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington.

"We need to get beyond the public relations and pass some legislation," he said.

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