Internet Advertising Bureau Forms Privacy Council

In an effort to allay the concerns of consumer privacy advocates, the Internet Advertising Bureau Wednesday formed the Chief Privacy Officer Council.

The new group is charged with educating the online industry about the consumer privacy solutions available to Web sites. The position of chief privacy officer is a fairly new one in the Internet business, having sprung up mostly in reaction to concerns about ad giant DoubleClick’s privacy practices. The idea behind the council is that these new executives, charged with creating and implementing privacy practices at their respective companies, should get together and provide leadership for the industry as a whole.

Interestingly, Jules Polonetsky, chief privacy officer of DoubleClick, will be one of the co-chairs of the new divison. Polonetsky, before joining DoubleClick in March 2000, was New York City’s consumer affairs commissioner. Ray Everett Church, the chief privacy officer for AllAdvantage.com, will serve as Polonetsky’s co-chair.

With leadership like this, the group is unlikely to score points with privacy advocates. These consumer advocates treat with skepticism any initiative created with companies — rather than consumers — in the forefront. Since Polonetsky and Church are both on the payrolls of advertising and marketing firms, privacy advocates are likely to be less than receptive to their plans. Still, the IAB, as an industry group, is hopeful that self-regulation will win out.

“We see the Chief Privacy Officer Council as a logical extension of the way in which the online industry can once again step forward to meet the needs of the consumer as the medium evolves,” said Church and Polonetsky in a prepared statement.

“The CPO Council will benefit the industry and consumers alike by educating those responsible for evaluating and implementing privacy guidelines for individual sites, be they commerce or content oriented.”

The IAB said the Council will be open to executives with responsibilities involving “consumer protection and privacy implementation.” The Council, the IAB said, will focus on helping the online industry implement privacy policies that benefit the consumer at the site level.

The CPO Council is the second special unit formed by the IAB in the past month, following the creation of the Wireless Advertising Association (WAA) by the IAB. The organization didn’t release plans for a meeting of the council, nor did it set out specific goals or deadlines for the group.

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