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Rules issued for online privacy

A marketing trade group issued privacy guidelines for information on children.

In an effort to preempt concerns about the use of marketing information gathered from the Internet, the Direct Marketing Association today announced a preliminary set of privacy guidelines for self-regulation.

The guidelines were presented at the Public Workshop on Consumer Privacy on the Global Information Infrastructure, a two-day event in Washington hosted by the Federal Trade Commission.

The practice of spamming large numbers of unsuspecting email accounts with unsolicited advertising has long been a source of contention to many computer users. More recently, the collection of demographic information directly from children has raised serious questions about whether sexual predators could get hold of names and other personal information.

The FTC organized the workshop after the Center for Media Education, a private group that yesterday asked the FTC to investigate KidsCom, a Web site aimed at children aged 4 to 15.

The Direct Marketing Association proposed in its opening remarks that all marketers post a privacy policy in an "easy-to-find, easy-to-read statement" that informs users about how the information will be used. Users would then have the ability to "opt-out" of providing information.

The assocaition, a trade group representing 3,600 companies in 48 nations, wouldn't do away with mass marketing by email but did call for marketers to exercise responsibility.

As for seeking information from children, the proposals are less specific--a combination of user education and the development of new technologies akin to the existing SurfWatch parental control software that could possibly limit access to sites were discussed as possibilities. The FTC plans to post transcripts of the conference.

Related story:
Children-targeted marketing under fire