Ad Lobbyists Blast Pending Net-Privacy Bill

Citing “massive costs and burdens on global marketers,” the Association of National Advertisers is launching an attack against new online-privacy legislation pending in the Minnesota state government.

The proposed legislation, cur rently in conference committee, calls for Internet businesses and online-content providers to obtain consent from individuals before disclosing their personal information to third parties. The request for authorization must describe the types of persons to whom the information may be disseminated and its anticipated uses.

A provision of the bill stipulates that a consumer who prevails in a legal action alleging a violation of the bill is entitled to $500 or actual damage, whichever is greater.

The conference committee is trying to iron out differences between a version of the bill in the Minnesota House of Representatives and an other in the state Senate. It is unknown when a mutual version of the bill could be completed. This is the farthest online-privacy legislation has made it on the state level.

“For advertisers, it would dramatically in crease costs and liabilities and make it more difficult to identify potential customers, which ironically may lead to increased marketing, because [advertisers] won’t be able to target individuals,” said Joe Rubin, director of congressional affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In an April 4 letter to members of the conference committee, Dan Jaffe, evp of the ANA, wrote: “Clearly, if you can target the right customer, it not only saves business money, but saves consumers’ time and money as well.”

If passed into law, the legislation could incite other states to develop their own privacy rules on the Internet—creating inconsistencies from state to state, said Jaffe. “It would lead to an un manageable … environment,” he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Congress is cooking up its own privacy legislation. One draft of a House bill would extend privacy restrictions beyond the Net to require permission for any personally identifiable information that is collected.

The Minnesota legislation also covers commercial e-mail. One provision stipulates that “ADV” must be the first characters used in a commercial e-mail, and “ADV-ADULT” must be used for material that only adults may view.