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CT governor Rell mulls opt-out registry

Governor M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut, motivated by complaints she has received about online search engines that list names, addresses and telephone numbers as well as age, place of work and other personal data, is in the process of developing a legislative package to create an opt-out registry for online personal data.

The Governor will be calling for a proposed opt-out registry, similar to the Do-Not-Call registry, that would establish a centralized, one-time process for Connecticut residents to remove some or all of their private information from Internet search sites, credit card solicitations, direct mail lists and e-mail lists.

“Anyone who goes to WhitePages.com or 411.com will find personal information published that many people may want protected,” a statement from Rell reads. “This is a safety and security issue — particularly for our elderly citizens who too often are targeted by scam artists and other opportunists.”

The Governor has noted that these sites are breaking no law by gathering and disseminating this information, but argued that many consumers are unaware that information about them exists in such an open forum.

Reese Solberg, WhitePages.com’s chief privacy officer, declined to respond to the proposal, saying that the information was not clear enough. In the meantime, he says, the firm awaits more information from the governor’s office.

While the Governor’s office claims that a consumer’s information can be misappropriated on these sites, there is legislation intact that does protect consumers.

For example, it is against the law to contact consumers on WhitePages.com who have signed up for the Do-Not-Call list. In addition, CAN -SPAM protects consumers from being contacted by e-mail without opting in.

Still, the industry is listening to what the governor is saying.

“We as an industry need to take a step back and look at what is happening here that is causing this consumer angst,” says David Atlas, SVP of worldwide sales and marketing at Goodmail. “I’m not putting blame on marketers, but as we are still in the Wild West in online advertising, we need to take action when there is concern.”

Governor Rell’s proposal follows other actions by her office to enhance computer security and be more private about personal information.

In October, the Connecticut’s Department of Information Technology partnered with SafeBoot for its encryption tool. Also, in September Rell’s office announced a new mobile computing and storage device security policy requiring government agencies to adhere to new restrictions and accountability measures — including mandatory risk assessments and written authorization from the agency head — for any instance in which restricted or confidential data must reside on a mobile device for business reasons.

In 2004, a proposed do not e-mail list was rejected by the FTC for being too difficult to maintain.

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