Industry Coalition Launches Privacy Campaign

One week after music software provider Real Networks revealed that it secretly gathered and transmitted consumer information, a coalition of top Internet companies announced launch today of a major privacy awareness campaign.

Washington, D.C.-based Net, which claims access to 90 percent of the world’s Internet users through its nine members, said the “Privacy Education Campaign” will consist of banners and impressions across its member sites, driving users to its information and resource site.

The coalition was formed in July and consists of, America Online, Yahoo!, Lycos, Excite@Home, Inktomi, eBay, and DoubleClick.

AOL CEO Steve Case said in a statement at the time, that public policy choices would determine the future of the Internet more than technology. There are many in the industry that would agree, and is obviously hoping that this campaign convinces the public that the industry is capable of being self-policing and responsible.

Many Issues’s coordinator for its Washington office, Daniel Ebert, told the E-Commerce Times that the coalition was formed to address many Internet issues, but members felt that the privacy issue was paramount.

“The privacy issue is important to us,” he said. “We believe that self-regulation is working, but we also believe that the industry can step up and do things better and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

Ebert said that the campaign would help Internet users understand the importance of online privacy and the resources and information contained on its Web page would provide the best answers on how to protect individual privacy.

Privacy Goes Public

The issue of online privacy has taken center stage — or rather slightly up-staged the more flammable issue of Internet taxation — in recent months. Congress has held hearings on the subject and the latest flare-up with RealNetworks underscores its importance.

RealNetworks is the manufacturer of the popular RealPlayer, a free piece software that has been downloaded by 13 million users. After last week’s announcement, RealNetworks went straight into damage control, stating that it would install new software that would require informed consent for the use of personal information.

The company also said they would join the Online Privacy Alliance, a well-established group that has taken the lead in advocating that the industry follow clear guidelines in protecting online privacy.

Unclear Outcome

While the outcome of this activity remains to be seen, some industry leaders speculate that the most critical issue here is for privacy to be self-regulated.

“ supports the environment of self-regulation that has allowed the Internet to flourish,” said Ebert. “By empowering users with common-sense information to enhance their online experiences, this Privacy Education Campaign reflects NetCoalition’s commitment to responsible self-regulation by the Internet industry,” said Ebert.

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