*IBM Sends Out a Shout on Privacy

IBM, Armonk, NY, announced to the online community yesterday that it won’t place Internet advertising on Web sites in the United States and Canada unless the site has posted an online statement detailing its official policy on privacy and use of consumers’ personal information.

IBM said it is taking a stand on privacy in part because the growth of e-commerce is thought to be inhibited by consumer concerns over Internet privacy. However, IBM spokesman, John Bukovinsky said, “We are not going to be in a policing position. But we are notifying companies now, wherever we have advertising, that a privacy policy is going to be required.”

IBM’s Internet advertising agency, OgilvyOne, a division of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, immediately began mailing out notification letters to an estimated 360 Web sites where IBM currently advertises in North America. The letter explains the new policy, which takes effect June 1, and details the importance that privacy policies contribute to consumers’ confidence of the online world.

A few industry analysts complained that no real corner has been turned and that IBM is simply hoping to further stall any possibility of the government instituting regulations. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Washington, was reported as say it was simply “privacy policy as a disclaimer” reminding Internet users that such postings do not force businesses to guarantee that personal information about them will not be sold to third parties.

But other privacy analysts applauded the initiative. At the Center for Social and Legal Research, Alan Westin, president/publisher of the Privacy & American Business report, said the move provides a valuable incentive for companies to post policies and will likely have a significant effect.

“IBM is saying that there is an ethical practice which requires that privacy communications be made to the consumer. And any organization that does not provide that is not where the company wants to put its advertising. It’s very commendable.”

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