|From: "Don Willadsen" firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 5/6/98 8:36pm
Subject: New / Old Rules for Electronic Commerce
TO: elecmedia@ftcgov (Or is it email@example.com? Your web site isn't clear.)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I appreciate your willingness to listen to the public on this important initiative.
The consumer protections we enjoy today may be inadequately defined with respect to electronic commerce and, specifically, commerce over the Internet.
I believe that, for the most part, the rules already in effect should be applied to all forms of commerce. We must recognize that the Internet can be an international trading community, depending on the identity and location of the customer and business, and we must respect that without allowing foreign entities to gain an unfair advantage over American businesses.
There are, however, some unique characteristics of the Internet and the World Wide Web that have little in common with more conventional business environments.
First, the open nature of TCP/IP and HTTP, which were originally designed to share data without any concerns for security, hold many pitfalls for the ill-informed and ill-equipped average user. The growth of Internet commerce has prompted the private sector to create such tools as the Secure Sockets Layer to help protect transactions and the large selection of encryption tools to protect messages. I believe that allowing the private sector to develop such products in reply to consumer demand is the right way, rather than expending government resources. I recommend that you simply ensure that current regulations against fraud apply to online commerce as well, and allow the industry to find standards for encryption and security.
Second, I note how even YOUR webmasters had to apply anti-spam techniques to the FTC web site. This highlights the need for customers to have a reliable source for complaints about spam and other electronic harrassment. Not all service providers have policies to control this, nor do all service providers take steps to control it other than send a soothing message in response to complaints. Spam wastes a significant percentage of Internet bandwidth (recent surveys vary) and turns off customers. I recommend that you ensure that service providers publish clear policies on their terms of service and enforce them. If these policies are unsatisfactory, the market forces will remove these providers with no need for government intervention.
Finally, businesses owe their customers accurate information and choice with respect to selling the customer's personal information. This is a problem in ALL forms of business. Releasing my mailing address tells someone where I LIVE, and releasing my phone number allows telemarketers to harrass me at their convenience. The customer should have a choice in whether a business is allowed to share his personal information BEFORE the business sells or gives this information to other businesses or charities.
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