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Go Network to enforce strict privacy policy

Disney's Buena Vista Internet Group and Infoseek are the latest companies to use their advertising space and dollars as currency to insist that other sites post clear privacy policies.

Disney's Buena Vista Internet Group and Infoseek today became the latest companies to use their advertising space and dollars as currency to insist that other sites post clear privacy policies.

Under the companies' new policy, neither the Go Network nor any of its member sites--which include See special feature: No clear path to Net privacy Disney.com, ESPN.com, Family.com, and ABC.com--will accept or buy ads from sites that fail to meet their criteria for posting clear privacy policies, the firms said. The policy becomes effective October 1, 1999.

The firms said they won't dictate the specific terms of the privacy policies, but they will insist the sites follow guidelines from industry group the Online Privacy Alliance.

The move comes after Microsoft announced a similar policy last week at PC Expo.

Privacy has been a flash point for debate online as the Web has emerged as a prime medium for direct marketing and commerce. Consumer advocates and legislators have focused on privacy as mainstream consumers flock online and are asked to hand over personal data at content and commerce sites.

In the United States, many have called for the government to step in and regulate Net firms' privacy policies, while others--such as the Clinton administration--have sought to keep self-regulation in place in spite of criticism. The United States also has been faced with increasing pressure by the European Union to comply with its strict data privacy law.

The Go Network has had its own privacy woes. Earlier this year, some Go Network users complained when the site accidentally included their usernames and passwords in a direct mail campaign.

"Since 1996, Disney has worked with various government and advocacy organizations to develop thoughtful, responsible, and comprehensive standards related to the gathering of personal data from online consumers, particularly children," Buena Vista Internet Group president Steve Wadsworth said in a statement.

"We feel it is mission critical to the continued growth of the Internet that industry takes active steps to increase consumer confidence and deliver private-sector solutions to concerns regarding online privacy protections," he added. "We believe our new policy represents a significant step in the right direction and encourage our colleagues to follow suit."