|March 31, 1998
RE: Privacy Guidelines 1998 -- P954807
To whom it may concern:
In response to the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Request for Industry Guidelines and Principles (Request), the Interactive Services Association (ISA) is pleased to submit the following information. The ISA is the leading trade association representing the consumer-focused Internet online industry. Our member companies recognize that in order for Internet online services to become the global mass market medium of the 21st century they must build consumer trust and confidence. I am pleased that the FTC shares the ISA's long-standing concerns for the privacy of consumers as they explore the Internet online universe. The ISA has assembled for your review three sets of data regarding online privacy and "best practices."
I. The ISA Privacy and Online Marketing Positions -- Appendix I
These positions include the 1) Principles on Notice and Choice Procedures for Online Information Collection and Distribution by Online Operators, 2) Principles on Notice and Choice Procedures for Online Information Collection and Distribution by Internet and Online Service Providers, 3) Statement on Children's Marketing Issues and 4) Principles for Unsolicited Marketing E-mail. The ISA has worked hard to develop and promote these guidelines and practices within its membership and the industry.
II. Privacy Policies for ISA Members Providing Paid Access to the Internet Online Environment -- Appendix II
ISA member companies serve the great majority of consumers who purchase access to the Internet and online world. According to a January 1998 Forrester Research study, ISA members provide seventy-two percent of consumers in the United States with paid access to the Internet and online world -- in all 23 million. Most of these consumers will access the Internet and online marketplace through an ISA member Internet online provider. For paying consumers, these companies are literally the gateway, or first point of contact, to the whole Internet online experience. However, many of these consumers do not clearly recognize the "border" separating the provider's Webpage or online service interface from the larger Internet. In the minds of many of these consumers their respective provider is the Internet or online world.
The data that the ISA has compiled shows that all of these companies clearly state their respective privacy policies on either the company Web page or the main interface to the online service itself. Therefore, these Internet online providers have set the tone for the level of privacy consumers can, and should, expect during the rest of their online exploration. These companies are: America Online Inc. (including CompuServe Interactive Services), AT&T WorldNet, Bell Atlantic Internet Solutions, IBM Internet Connections Services, internetMCI, Microsoft Network, NETCOM, Pacific Bell Internet and Prodigy.
III. Other ISA Member Privacy Policies -- Appendix III
The ISA does not consist exclusively of Internet and online service providers. In fact, the great majority of our membership are not service providers. These members represent every facet of the Internet online industry from high-technology law firms to Web page designers. We have perused several of these members' Web sites for their respective privacy policies and have informally aggregated the data in Appendix III. We submit this data simply to illustrate the fact that the industry has taken steps to raise consumer awareness of privacy issues and to inform those consumers about how their data is -- or is not -- used. We believe that consumer education is the most important means to ensure that consumers have the utmost control of their privacy while online.
If the FTC believes, as the ISA does, that consumer behavior is a critical part of exercising privacy options, then the ISA believes it is uniquely suited to provide comprehensive industry data to assist the Commission's final analysis. The ISA would like to offer its services for collecting, aggregating and reporting on apparent consumer use of privacy elements among our membership. We believe this information will helpful to adequately assess consumers' own real-world use of the privacy elements and tools now in place. In the next couple of months, as the FTC prepares its report, the ISA would like to work with FTC to gather this information in order to help the FTC better understand and shape the report's final conclusions.
We are delighted that the FTC has recognized the importance of the privacy issue to ensuring continued consumer trust and confidence in the medium through industry cooperation and consumer education. The ISA's own record for advocating and implementing privacy policies among its membership is an excellent example of a successful self-governance model. We hope that the FTC's Privacy Sweeps will continue the consumer education and awareness already begun by the industry. We look forward to working with the FTC on this issue in the future.