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ABC's Internet Indiscretion

Those who tuned in to ABC's novel Internet news broadcast Monday to chat electronically with anchor Sam Donaldson had more than their names and comments posted on the Web site for the world to see.

ABC also disclosed the unique four-digit Internet address for each person who wrote a comment, a decision that helps anyone trace a viewer's real-world identity.

In one instance, "Mark from DC" turned out to be an employee at the Justice Department who pressed the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission: "When will the telecommunications industries begin addressing the increasing gulf in the inaccessibility of the Web to (the) poor?"

FCC Chairman William Kennard was among Donaldson's guests on the debut of his Web-only broadcast.

Bernard Gershon, general manager for the ABC News Web site, couldn't be reached immediately to explain the network's decision to publish each viewer's "Internet protocol" address.

But he said earlier that the site will collect only a person's name and e-mail address when a viewer asks to subscribe to a regular newsletter that Donaldson will write.

"It looks like a bit of cluelessness that should be fixed," said Jason Catlett of Junkbusters Corp., a New Jersey-based privacy group. "There's no reason to do it, and a number of reasons not to do it."

The Justice Department referred questions about its employee's participation in Monday's broadcast to its 1997 Internet policy, which urges that employees "making personal use of Internet e-mail should make it clear, when appropriate, that his or her e-mail is not being used for official duties."