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Source: Reuters

Posted on November 29, 2000

      International Business Machines Corp. Wednesday named Harriet Pearson as its first chief privacy officer in a bid to strengthen the company's role in consumer privacy protection.

      The Armonk, N.Y.-based company said that Pearson will coordinate privacy aspects of programs such as research and development, marketing, sales, IBM's Web strategy, and technology and policy efforts.

      She will also coordinate the development of IBM technology and services offerings for privacy and will ensure that the company complies with laws and standards as consumer privacy guidelines evolve.

      The move comes amid growing concerns that electronic commerce will fail to get off the ground because consumers have yet to feel safe about giving out personal data online.

      "We know that one of the great conundrums of e-business is that it gives enterprises a powerful new capability to capture and analyze massive amounts of customer information so they can serve individual customers more effectively," said IBM Chief Executive Officer Louis V. Gerstner.

      "Yet this very capability troubles some people, who see it as a means to disclose or exploit their personal information. These are legitimate and very real concerns, and they must be addressed if the world of e-business is to reach its full potential."

      A recent report by the University of California at Los Angeles said that almost two-thirds of U.S. Internet users and more than three-quarters of non-users say going online is a threat to privacy.

      A whopping 97.8 percent of Internet users who have not purchased online expressed some concern about security of credit-card information, according to the report. And more than nine out of 10 Internet users are "somewhat or very concerned" about credit-card security, the study said.

      IBM said that Pearson has directed IBM's involvement in several areas of public policy, including privacy, health care and consumer protection.

      She also chairs the Privacy Committee of the Information Technology Industry Council and serves on the board of the Internet Education Foundation.

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