The American Advertising Federation will distribute sample privacy policies and stage educational workshops in an attempt to help small businesses with commercial Web sites start to post privacy policies online.
Privacy policies are intended to explain what information is being collected from consumers on Web sites and how it will be used. AAF President Wally Snyder said the effort may aid small businesses which are not aware of the value of privacy policies or may not have the resources to develop one.
The Better Business Bureau's online subsidiary, BBBOnline, also launched a privacy program last week. It plans to award sites that comply with BBBOnline privacy policies a voluntary seal of approval.
Commercial Web sites have been under pressure of late to post such policies. The Federal Trade Commission, with the help of Georgetown University, has completed two surveys to determine if the industry has improved its record of posting privacy policies. Only 14 percent of the 674 commercial sites surveyed last April did so.
FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky has indicated Congress may enact legislation if the second survey of 360 sites--completed March 11--shows no improvement. Results won't be available until mid to late April.
Congressional intervention could result in legislation requiring commercial Web sites to post privacy policies. One possible provision: consumers may be allowed to opt out of having their personal information used for purposes other than for what it was originally collected.