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Two New E-Mail Laws Introduced


February 27, 2001

Congressman Gene Green (D-TX) has introduced two bills dealing with e-mail fraud.

The Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Act of 2001 (H.R. 95) amends the Federal criminal code to provide criminal penalties for anyone who intentionally initiates the transmission of any unsolicited commercial electronic mail message with the knowledge that any domain name or other identifying information is inaccurate.

This act prohibits any person from sending a message unless the message contains a valid e-mail address, conspicuously displayed, to which a recipient may send notice of a desire not to receive further messages. It also requires a company to make public a privacy policy and an opportunity for a subscriber to opt not to receive such mail.

Under this bill, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is directed to notify violators of this Act, to prohibit message delivery, and to require the initiator to delete the names and e-mail addresses of the recipients and providers from all mailing lists. H.R. 95 also provides a right of action by a recipient or provider against e-mail initiators who violate the above requirements.

Rep. Green also introduced on January 31 similar online privacy legislation with H.R. 347, the Consumer Online Privacy and Disclosure Act, which requires Web site operators to post notice of their information collection practices. The bill is intended to prohibit companies from tracking individual consumers as they navigate the Internet. In addition, the bill calls for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to require Web site operators to state under what terms the information they collect is shared or sold to other companies and do so in a way that is easily understandable for the average consumer.

"This legislation prevents anonymous third parties from attaching 'persistent cookies' to consumers as they move through a Web site, and holds online companies to their privacy policies," Green said.

Green believes this legislation will not inhibit e-commerce companies from developing their own customer lists for internal uses.

Provisions of the legislation:

Require an "opt-in" by the consumer before the "persistent cookie" is allowed to be attached. This opt-in will serve as notice to the consumer that someone is attempting to profile online consumer use.

Require any insolvent e-commerce company attempting to sell their consumer database to receive affirmative consent from each consumer contained in the database before their information can be sold.

Call on the FTC to state clearly the rules specifying that all operators of a Web site or online service provide clear and conspicuous notice of their privacy policy in clear, non-legalistic terms.

Information on this bill and other congressional activity can be found at: http://thomas.loc.gov/bss/d107query.html.

© 2001, Direct Marketing Association


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