Privacy Policy on the Fly


Privacy Policy on the Fly

By John Makulowich
Contributing Writer

Painstakingly pondering the preparation of a privacy policy position paper? Ponder no more. Instead, visit the Direct Marketing Association Inc.'s World Wide Web page at www.the-dma.org/pan7/dmers7c1-policy.shtml.

There, courtesy of James Crowe, DMA's manager for consumer affairs, you find a straightforward and effective online tool that helps you and your organization prepare a privacy policy.

On opening the page in your favorite browser, you see the bold headline in large type: "Allow the DMA to help you set up your own Company's Privacy Policy Online." The DMA is not exaggerating when it tells you, "Simply fill out the questions below and submit it to us - we'll do the rest." Demanding just the minimum of typing simple answers to a questionnaire with a modicum of buttons and forms, you should be able to cascade down the nine questions on the page in less than 10 minutes - and wind up, through e-mail, with a fully compliant HTML-formatted page ready to put on your server. You can also choose to receive plain text through e-mail or generate the HTML code on the fly for cut and paste operations. As the DMA properly notes on its page, "Consumer notification of information policies is a basic element of a direct marketer's information practices. DMA believes that all marketers operating online sites should make available their information policies to consumers in a prominent place."

For those who have yet to ponder the niceties of privacy policy, the page itself is an eye-opener for the range of questions it addresses and the issues it covers. Used this way, the page can serve as a handy checklist of items to cover in developing a policy on privacy if your organization is collecting personal information - whether disclosed or not - from visitors to its pages on the Web or ftp servers.

For example, question No. 3 covers the type of information collected, such as domain name, e-mail address, specific Web page(s) accessed or visited and data from a site registration or survey.

Question No. 4 lists six ways in which the gathered information could be used. These include use for internal review, Web page content improvement, customizing the content and/or layout of Web pages for individual consumers, notifying consumers about Web site updates, sharing with other organizations to help them contact consumers for marketing purposes and contacting consumers for marketing purposes.

You might ask if such a policy is really necessary? Probably so, since more and more companies are trying to turn a profit from their Web efforts as well as integrating the Internet into their marketing communications strategies and plans.

And data from the DMA supports the growth of the online market. According to DMA's Statistical Fact Book 1997, online shopping revenues are expected to reach $2.77 billion by the year 2000, while online ad revenues are expected to total $5 billion by the millennium.

One other interesting bit of data: the group estimates that the costs for a typical Web site range from $304,000 for a purely promotional site to well over $3 million for a fully interactive/transactional site.

John Makulowich writes, talks and trains on the Internet. You can reach him at john@journalist.com; his home page is http://www.cais.com/makulow/.



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