DMA Nonprofit Federation Unveils Plans for International Privacy Policy

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WASHINGTON -- The Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation yesterday unveiled plans for a safe harbor program that will provide nonprofits with a voluntary system for establishing and certifying a privacy policy acceptable to the European Union.

Speaking at the DMA's Nonprofit Federation Critical Issues Conference here, Charles Prescott, vice president for international affairs at the DMA, said the program would facilitate both international trade and nonprofit fundraising through a sharing of information.

The conference opened with about 50 attendees, mostly representatives of nonprofit organizations. Lindy Litrides, senior vice president for relationship marketing at the Arthritis Foundation, monitored a panel that included Peter Swires, chief counsel to President Clinton for privacy issues; Bennett Weiner, vice president of philanthropic advisory services at the Council of Better Business Bureaus; Patricia Faley, vice president for ethics and consumer affairs at the DMA; and Prescott.

The speakers initially focused on online privacy but touched on all aspects of direct marketing. Litrides kicked off the event with an overview of the present situation, concluding that although 47 percent of online households support some kind of government regulation, most consumers are willing to provide information if "you give them something they consider worthwhile" and collect only necessary information, she said.

Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president for government affairs at the DMA, preceded talks by panel members with a preview of what he called "What's the worst thing that could happen?" For Cerasale, the worst situation is one in which online consumers must decide whether information they provide can be shared in order to proceed, with no more information given on the Web site and no ability to ask questions.

Panel members seemed to agree that consumer confidence is essential to nonprofits and can best be achieved through strict self-regulation that includes a well-stated, prominent privacy policy that allows consumers to opt out and provides some means of enforcement.

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