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Media Coverage: E-mail Advertisers Float Industry Standards Proposal
WASHINGTON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Top U.S. online marketers Monday proposed new privacy rules to curb the explosion of unwanted e-mail and head off a possible regulatory crackdown.

Calling themselves the Responsible Electronic Communication Alliance (RECA), 16 firms said they were developing a "seal of approval" to identify subscribers to their proposed, enforceable standards.

Members of the group include Internet marketing industry leader DoubleClick Inc., advertiser 24/7 Media Inc., data-services firm Acxiom Corp., ClickAction Inc. and Digital Impact.

"We think that industry (self-) regulation is far preferable to government regulation," said Chris Wolf, a Washington lawyer serving as the group's president.

The proposed new standards are based on online privacy- protection standards championed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

In May, the commission voted to seek new powers from Congress to police commercial Web sites on the ground industry self-regulation would not be up to the job. The FTC did not return a phone call seeking comment on the industry initiative.

The industry proposals would give Internet users greater choice about whether to receive e-mail offerings plus the ability to remove themselves quickly from any list.

The ultimate goal is to phase in a set of firm standards on "privacy, notice, access and choice" -- the four pillars of fair information practices identified by the FTC, Wolf said.

The initiative calls for warnings, fines, forfeiture of the right to use RECA's seal and expulsion for members who violate agreed-upon rules.

The coalition also agreed to provide "a meaningful, timely and inexpensive mechanism" for users to e-mail complaints regarding practices.

Wolf said the group would seek input from the FTC along with privacy advocates and Internet service providers.

Copies of the principles are available at www.ResponsibleEmail.org.

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