CHC Weighs In on Commerce's Internet Privacy Report

Jan. 31, 2011 – The Coalition for Healthcare Communication (CHC) today signed on with other leading marketing organizations to the Direct Marketing Association’s joint industry comments regarding the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force’s green paper, entitled Commercial Data Privacy and Innovation in the Internet Economy: A Dynamic Policy Framework.

The joint comments call for continued federal support of voluntary codes of conduct to protect consumer privacy while ensuring that the Internet remains a platform for innovation. The commenters also ask the Commerce Department to acknowledge that online advertising and marketing provide significant benefits to the economy, consumers and businesses.

“The CHC supports the joint comments because they recognize that the Internet is such an important and valuable tool for consumers seeking medication information,” said John Kamp, CHC executive director. “The comments’ call for self-regulation dovetail with our organization’s goal of assuring the free exchange of scientific information without undue government interference,” he noted.

A proposal introduced by the Commerce Department’s Internet Policy Task Force enabling Internet users “to express a uniform and persistent choice to opt out of online behavioral advertising – a concept known as ‘Do Not Track’” – is the type of government interference that could hamstring the flow of valuable consumer information, the comments state.

According to the comments, the federal government should not, either through legislation or regulation, engage in the creation of a Do Not Track mechanism, “because such efforts risk threatening the Internet as it exists today, an area of American innovation and dominance, and a primary area of job growth and investment.”

The commenters contend that an About Ads Consumer Opt-out Page – a voluntary, self-regulatory program initiated in late 2010 – gives consumers data about the companies that have enabled customized ads on their browsers and allows them to opt out of some or all of the companies participating if they so choose.

“Although the CHC recognizes the right of citizens to protect their sensitive medical data, a government-imposed ‘Do Not generic name for flagyl Track’ list could cripple the ability of citizens to use the Internet for vital health information,” Kamp said. “Balancing legitimate privacy requests with the need for a robust Internet that offers healthcare professionals, patients and caregivers immediate access to useful data about medical conditions and treatments is not easy, but it is what all parties need to establish as the primary goal,” he remarked.

The CHC asserts that limiting or preventing access to free commercial speech is not the solution, according to Kamp. “Without free access to appropriate medical information, the lay public will not be able to assume greater responsibility for its own health, a critical factor in the nation’s effort to achieve efficient and effective usage of the healthcare system,” he said.