[ISN] Web Firms Urged to Self-Regulate

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Thu Dec 03 1998 - 17:11:29 PST

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    Forwarded From: Ama-gi ISPI <Offshoreat_private>
    Wednesday December 2, 1998
    Web Firms Urged to Self-Regulate
    Clinton Vows to Protect Privacy and Extend Internet's Reach
    By Leslie Walker and Robert O'Harrow (Washington Post Staff Writers)
    President Clinton hailed the importance of Internet commerce to the U.S. 
    economy yesterday as he announced new steps his administration is taking
    to promote electronic trade and industry self-regulation. 
    "Electronic commerce gives us the extraordinary opportunity to usher in
    the greatest age of prosperity not only for Americans but for people all
    over the world," Clinton told executives from scores of companies doing
    business on the global computer network. 
    The president said he will push for online companies to adopt consumer
    protections, ask federal agencies to encourage small businesses to hook up
    to the Internet, offer financial assistance to Internet projects in
    developing countries and promote federal policies to spur private-sector
    investment in building high-speed Internet networks. 
    Clinton said his administration will continue its largely laissez-faire
    approach to Internet regulation by urging the industry to work with
    government to develop ways to guarantee privacy and security to users. 
    Internet industry executives have feared that the government might stifle
    the development of electronic commerce with legislation imposing costly
    bureaucratic requirements on companies operating on the World Wide Web.
    But Clinton reassured them that "we will do nothing that undermines the
    capacity of emerging technologies to lift the lives of ordinary
    The president also stressed the importance of industry self-regulation.
    "We must give consumers the same protection in our virtual malls that they
    now get at the shopping mall," he said. 
    The White House released a report on electronic commerce yesterday that
    predicts the explosive growth of Internet commerce will continue, in part
    because the administration and other governments have avoided
    overregulating the global computer network. 
    That restraint helps explain why the number of people who use the Internet
    has skyrocketed from 10 million in 1995 to more than 140 million, and why
    daily purchases over the network have increased from a handful to more
    than 27 million over the same period, said the report by the U.S.
    Government Working Group on Electronic Commerce. 
    Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an
    advocacy group in the District, agreed the White House has been successful
    in how it approached some electronic-commerce issues. But he said
    officials don't seem to realize that self-regulation has limits. Rotenberg
    said legislation probably will be needed to guarantee consumer protection
    and privacy on the Internet. 
    "The question is, is standing on the sidelines the best strategy for all
    issues," said Rotenberg, editor of the Privacy Law Sourcebook. "In some
    areas, such as consumer protection and privacy protection, they need to be
    more aggressive." 
    The event yesterday in the Old Executive Office Building was a farewell of
    sorts for Ira Magaziner, the senior White House adviser who has urged
    legislators not to pass laws that might crimp the network, while cajoling
    online industry executives to develop a meaningful approach to
    self-regulation. Magaziner, who is leaving his position this month,
    received a long ovation from political and industry leaders after Vice
    President Gore said he "has done a really spectacular job." 
    Magaziner later called the administration's efforts to promote electronic
    commerce "a good start" and added, "I think we've gotten enough momentum
    that now it will continue." 
    Gore said a task force led by domestic policy adviser David Beyer will
    continue Magaziner's work. 
    Among the key goals is establishing a consumer protection system for
    computer users around the world. Magaziner said he envisions an
    industry-policed program similar to one under development by the Council
    of Better Business Bureaus to protect privacy. 
    Under the BBB's plan, an electronic seal would be used at Web sites
    operated by companies that voluntarily meet privacy guidelines. Although
    that system has taken longer than expected to develop, Magaziner said, it
    will likely be operational by early next year. Magaziner said he'd like to
    see a consumer protection seal in place by 2000. 
    "You need to get an international system of rules," he said. "We think we
    can do it in the next year." 
    Arthur B. Sackler, vice president for law and public policy at Time Warner
    Inc., said the White House deserves credit for being so restrained and
    allowing the Internet to grow without interference. 
    Sackler said the Online Privacy Alliance, an industry group formed with
    Magaziner's help, has provided impetus for a sweeping self-regulation
    program. He said Time Warner has committed itself to participating in the
    group's privacy seal program. 
    "They've really done a pretty good job," said Sackler.. 
    Government's role in regulating the Internet also will be the topic of
    debate this week at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. A
    38-member commission of government and technology industry leaders
    appointed by Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) will recommend a
    series of policies on privacy and commerce on the Internet. 
    The industry's cooperation with the administration intensified this year
    out of concern that Congress might legislate stricter regulations -- a
    concern that has not faded. 
    As a reminder, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) announced this week that the
    Judiciary Committee he chairs will address many Internet commerce issues
    during the next Congress. 
    Hatch said the committee will examine, among other issues, the adequacy of
    Internet privacy protections; the role federal antitrust laws play in
    fostering competition and innovation on the Internet; what obligations, if
    any, local phone monopolies have to give other Internet access providers
    equal access to high-speed Internet lines; the administration's plans to
    privatize governance of Internet addresses; and whether additional
    regulations are needed for content on the Internet beyond the legislation
    enacted this year. 
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