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THE CUTTING EDGE | Heard on the Beat

Better Business Bureau Promotes Net Privacy

November 30, 1998|GREG MILLER

Addressing one of the federal government's top concerns in cyberspace, the Better Business Bureau said today that it will begin accepting applications for its online privacy seal, a program designed to promote privacy protections on the Internet.

Under the program--dubbed BBBOnline--Internet companies wishing to post the seal on their sites must follow a number of guidelines designed to safeguard private information commonly collected from consumers during Internet transactions.

Recent studies have shown that consumers are increasingly concerned about what becomes of their credit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers and other personal data disclosed online. Earlier this year, the White House urged Internet companies to devise their own self-regulation schemes or risk government intervention.

To obtain the Better Business Bureau seal, sites will be required to post a policy describing what data they collect and how they use the data. Each site will be audited once a year by the bureau, and consumers can access the audit report by clicking the BBBOnline seal on the company's main Web page.

Consumers who believe a site has failed to adhere to its own policy can complain to the bureau, which plans to punish offending sites by withdrawing the seal and referring complaints to the Federal Trade Commission or another enforcement agency.

Participating businesses will have to pay annual fees ranging from several hundred dollars to as much as $5,000, depending on the size of the company. More information is available at http://www.bbbonline.org.

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