|To the Secretary, Advisory Committee on Online Access and
I would like to nominate myself to the Advisory Committee. I believe that I can be most useful to the Committee in its task of making recommendations to the Commission regarding the implementation of fair information practices by domestic commercial Web sites.
As a full professor of media systems at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School For Communication, I have spent the past several years exploring the intersection of marketing, the online world, and consumers. My 1997 book, "Breaking Up America: Advertisers and the New Media World" (University of Chicago Press, paperback 1998) examined the social implications of target marketing. Flagged as a notable book by Amazon.com, it encouraged public and scholarly discussion of Web developments that were barely visible at the time but are now quite widespread.
During the past year and a half, a substantial part of my work has centered on the Internet and the family. In May 1999, The Annenberg Public Policy Center released reports of two major studies that I conducted on the topic. With the help of Roper Starch Worldwide, the first study explored the attitudes and activities of a national sample of parents toward the Web in households that own computers. The second project examined the way that twelve major U.S. newspapers have presented issues relating to the Internet and children.
The national survey--the first of its kind--found that most American parents with computers in the home are deeply conflicted about the Web. They acknowledge that it can be fascinating for children but worry that it can also confront them with disturbing images and threats to privacy. The press' portrayal of the Internet, we found, reflects the fears of the national survey. Stories present the Internet as a Jekyll-and-Hyde phenomenon over which parents are left to take control with little community backup.
The release of these findings coincided with a daylong conference of academic and business that I convened at the National Press Club to discuss the studies and encourage new ways of thinking about policy, research and practice in this area. Policymakers and academics who attended the conference told me that the data and discussions stimulated a lot of thinking about this relatively unexplored area. The data also instigated an enormous amount of press coverage.
This month I will be fielding a second the Internet and the Family survey. Using questionnaires I wrote, Roper Starch will interview a national sample of children as well as a national sample of parents. Key areas of the survey relate to issues that will be taken up by the Committee. We will be asking parents and children about their attitudes towards information disclosure on commercial Web sites, with particular emphasis on the way parents and teens respond to a scenario regarding a commercial Web site's trading of free products for various sorts of information.
I am quite familiar with the areas that the Advisory Committee will consider, and I will be available during the meeting times. My bias is simply to help create a Web environment that will not disrupt family life and in which parents and youngsters can feel comfortable and secure.
I am attaching my resume (a Word document), as well as a copy of the first Internet and the Family report (in Acrobat form).
Joseph Turow, Ph.D.