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DMA Nonprofit Federation Conference Concentrates on Internet Privacy

December 7, 2000

WASHINGTON — Privacy, especially on the Internet, was of primary concern this week at the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation Critical Issues Conference. The event, attended by approximately 70 people representing nonprofits from across the country, reflected a growing concern that if for-profit and nonprofit organizations do not regulate their use of the Internet, the government will.

Emily Hackett, state policy director of the Internet Alliance, said the federal government often defines the minimum standards for privacy, while the state governments define the maximum. However, when state legislators see how complicated the issue is, they realize they need guidance. That guidance should come from the private sector, she said.

Hackett stressed that industry programs are better than government programs because industry can move more quickly and effectively.

"We need to keep the Internet regulation-free and keep consumer confidence high," she said.

Movements for government regulation are the result of the industry's lack of attention to privacy issues, said Harriet Pearson, director of public policy at IBM Corp.

"If we'd been earlier to start a dialogue, we'd be in a better position as far as public opinion [is concerned]," she said. "It's in our interest to have an informed public."

As co-chairwoman of IBM's Privacy Council, a corporatewide team established by IBM to address the issue, Pearson reported that the Privacy Leadership Initiative had set up working projects that included research, guidelines, technology and consumer education.

Pearson also said that nonprofits and for-profits needed to work together on this issue, which is important to both sectors.

Daniel Moore, registrar of charitable organizations at the New Mexico attorney general's office and president of the National Association of State Charity Officials, discussed the Charleston Principles, a set of guidelines for fundraising on the Web that is the result of the October 1999 National Association of Attorneys General/National Association of State Charity Officials conference. Moore called these guidelines "informal, nonbinding advice."

Although the guidelines were released in August 2000, Moore said that they were not yet complete and that he was waiting for reactions and comments from nonprofits. These guidelines define under what circumstances a nonprofit that has a Web presence must register within a state. For example, if the nonprofit is domiciled in the state, it must register. It also must register if one of the following conditions exists: It is not domiciled within the state but its non-Internet activities alone would require registration; its interactive Web site specifically targets people in the state for solicitations; or it receives contributions from the state on a repeated and ongoing basis through its Web site.

Several speakers stressed that how nonprofits handle the privacy issue will affect public perception. A favorable image is especially important for organizations that are asking for charitable contributions.

Paulanne Simmons, DM News


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