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CEOs issue Web privacy standards

Fearing privacy angst may blunt electronic commerce, the chief executives of many of the world's biggest corporations called for global standards to safeguard personal information on the Internet.

MIAMI -- Fearing privacy angst may blunt electronic commerce, the chief executives of many of the world's biggest corporations on Tuesday called for global standards to safeguard personal information on the Internet.

The Global Business Dialogue on E-commerce, a group of 72 corporations, including such majors as Time Warner Inc. and Toshiba Corp., said domestic laws alone could not preserve the privacy of people's transactions or such personal information as medical histories.

Privacy guidelines proposed by the GBDE called for Internet vendors to clearly state policies on the uses of personal data, give customers both a chance to keep details private and a contact for privacy complaints.

Personal data on children should not be used or distributed in any fashion without a parent's permission, according to draft guidelines that will likely be strengthened in coming months, according to Gerald Levin, chief executive of media conglomerate Time Warner and chairman of the GBDE.

"What we are wrestling with is the obvious fact that these transactions go cross border and into places that do not always have the heritage of privacy protections of the United States and Europe,'' Levin told reporters at a GBDE meeting in Miami.

"This is the challenge of an instantly global medium,'' he said.

Leave the customer satisfied
Created to promote a framework for worldwide electronic Commerce -- forecast to rise dramatically to more than $2.5 trillion in 2005 -- the GDBE also urged that online merchants provide means for satisfying consumer complaints outside courts and government regulators.

At a meeting attended by governmental officials from Japan, the United States and the European Union, the CEOs also advocated creation of "trustmark'' groups to encourage good business practices.

"We need each other to pave the way to the new world,'' Vivendi Chairman Jean-Marie Messier said.