*Privacy Increases Customer Confidence

WASHINGTON — Companies that empower their customers will gain a business advantage, a privacy advocate asserted here yesterday at the Global Privacy Summit 2000.

Mari J. Frank, an attorney and author specializing in privacy issues, made that assertion during a session titled “Customers.com and Privacy.” Frank, who identified herself as one of the few privacy advocates speaking at the conference, was one of seven panel members discussing the topic.

Although none of the panelists disputed the notion that privacy bolsters consumer confidence, there was not a clear consensus on how privacy can or should be achieved.

Despite the good intentions of seal providers that grant approval to Web sites they deem privacy-friendly, the seal giver often has no recourse when sites suddenly change their privacy policies, said Fred Davis, CEO of Lumeria Inc. Furthermore, the seals are rarely taken away after violations occur, he said.

While legislation would be an effective way to increase consumers' privacy on the Internet, enforcement would be difficult, according to several panel members.

Two security experts on the panel — Bennett Todd, systems and security analyst, Oven Digital, and Anup Ghosh, director of security research, Reliable Software Technologies — noted that even if legislation required sites to adhere to certain privacy standards, there could be no privacy without security.

“Good privacy policies do not ensure security,” Ghosh said.

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