A private matter4/30/2000 08:00:00 PM Eastern
Here's something new for broadcasters and their Washington representatives to worry about: online privacy. As TV and radio stations move onto the Web, they are collecting personal information on the thousands who visit their sites.
As any marketer will tell you, such data has value. Stations can use it themselves or sell it to others. But as the broadcasters' databases grow, so does public concern about how information acquired from Web surfing is being used and disseminated. That concern has already translated into congressional hearings and regulatory legislation. Although Congress has passed a law protecting children's online privacy, it seems to be willing to wait and see if efforts at self-regulation prove sufficient to protect adults. All it takes, however, is a few sensational headlines about privacy abuse to kick the lawmakers into high gear.
Not long ago, broadcasters could have napped through this debate. But most are now dotcoms or will be. They may not want to engage in the politics, but they ought to avoid becoming one of those sensational headlines.
Good advice. What broadcasters don't need to be told is that failure at self-regulation can quickly lead to government regulation.