America Online, Excite, Infoseek, Lycos, Microsoft, Netscape, Snap and Yahoo! joined the grassroots Privacy Partnership, donating an estimated $3 million in banner advertising space through Oct. 31. The advertising blitz will reach more than 85 percent of Web users, proponents said.
"Protecting Internet consumer privacy has become a serious issue for Internet users," said Lori Fena, chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who also spoke on the panel. "The success of this initiative will create needed awareness, and promote the privacy standards and underlying trust required for the Internet to continue to grow as a medium that individuals can believe in."
The campaign is considered one of the largest advertising campaigns in Internet history. Meanwhile, the initiative is far from the only suggested solution to quelling privacy fears on the Internet; more than 80 bills have been introduced in Congress over the past few years to target the issue.
In the coming weeks, Scott expects hundreds more Web-based businesses and personal sites to join in on the campaign, by downloading banners at www.truste.org/partners/ or by clicking one of the banners, which ask users "Care About Online Privacy?"
Susan Scott, executive director of Palo Alto, Calif.-based TRUSTe, says consumers' privacy concerns are the No. 1 reason why they are not purchasing goods on the Web, and why they don't spend more time on the Web. With renewed trust by consumers, the Web could see more than $34 billion in ecommerce activity by the year 2002, panelists said.
"The Web's phenomenal growth has (created) a bad side effect," Scott said. "It's an inhibitor to growth. Consumers say they will use (the Web) if privacy concerns are met."
Srinija Srinivasan, vice president of research and editor-in-chief of Yahoo!, said it is incumbent upon Web site owners to responsibly manage private information, by disclosing privacy practices, and to use the information respectfully. "We have to be responsible to foster that trust," Srinivasan said. "It's in our best interests to do this so this space can reach its full potential."
"Customers should explicitly understand what's going on," said Barak Berkowitz, vice president of marketing for Infoseek. "Informe consent is key."
The future holds better technology to enable consumers to see their own profile online, and be empowered to change it, if they see fit, and to easily use software that enables a user to be anonymous while visiting a site, said Steven Lucas, chief information officer at MatchLogic, a division of Excite.
Written By Martha L. Stone