FTC Panelist Advocates Online Access to Personal Info

Dash.com CEO Daniel Kaufman, a member of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Internet privacy panel, is urging his colleagues to back a plan to give online consumers access to information that is collected about them.

“Many consumers hesitate to participate in e-commerce opportunities because they fear they will leave a trail of personal information that’s beyond their control,” Mr. Kaufman said. “By providing each consumer with access to their information, businesses can assuage this concern.”

If businesses take the initiative, Kaufman argues, the industry may be able to avoid more strict government oversight, which Congress and the Clinton administration have quietly warned could be the next step if dishonest practices on the Web are not curtailed.

Five-Month Process

As reported last week in the E-Commerce Times, the FTC formed the Advisory Committee on Online Access and Security to spend five months exploring the impact of privacy and security policies on both online consumers and businesses. The group is expected to present a report to the FTC with analysis of the current Internet climate and recommendations on how to implement the fair information practices of access and security online.

Dash.com, a so-called “mobile shopping tool” for e-commerce companies, is one of 15 e-commerce companies named to the 40-member panel late last week.

Joining Dash.com on the panel are e-commerce companies America Online, Excite@Home Network, IBM, Microsoft, Time Warner and the Walt Disney Co., plus a handful of public sector, non-profit and research organizations.

Strong Privacy Policies

Dash.com, launched in November, said in a statement that it has already tried to set an example by implementing “one of the strongest privacy policies on the Web, providing each member with convenient, free, password-protected access to the information Dash collects about them, including the ability to delete it.”

Dash.com’s shopping portal introduced the “dashBar,” a persistent navigation tool that combines content, cash-back shopping and the ability for businesses and affinity groups to send real-time messages to consumers anywhere on the Web. The service has accumulated more than 400,000 members since November.

The FTC advisory panel is slated to meet in early February in Washington, D.C. to identify specific privacy and security policies to examine and make a plan for further in-depth work by subcommittees. The group will meet four more times before issuing its report to the FTC in April.

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