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Staking a Claim on Web Privacy

Who will regulate consumer privacy on the Internet? Plus, Groupon gets dissed at SXSW and the rest of the day's news for entrepreneurs.
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Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today.

Will the real Internet police please stand up? The online turf war over who will officially regulate the murky underworld of Web privacy is heating up. Should it be the FTC? Or the FCC? How about the Senate Judiciary Committee? The Wall Street Journal reports that Washington is in disarray over who will hold the reigns on the Internet, with Senators clamoring for their stake in laying down the law on the virtual world. "The tussle between the two committees underscores privacy's status as a new high-profile issue on Capitol Hill," The Journal noted. "Sens. John McCain and John Kerry are circulating proposed legislation to create an "online privacy bill of rights." That move comes after the Federal Trade Commission, the Commerce Department and individual legislators have pushed for related privacy rules."

Groupon gets dissed at SXSW. A panel discussion hosted by the daily deals site went awry when Travis Kalanick, a longtime Silicon Valley entrepreneur, spoke frankly of his negative experiences as a Groupon client. "In marketing, in the stories you tell, you guys are nothing but winning," said Kalanick, who runs the online car service Uber. "But there is such a disconnect with operations." He added that Groupon reps had given him "an initial estimate of proceeds from the offer that was ten times higher than what the group deal actually delivered," among other flubs, according to Fast Company. A Groupon executive grabbed a mike in the middle of the panel to say the firm is hiring a team of "merchant managers" to solve the problem.

And in other SXSW news... At 15 years old, entrepreneur Christopher Poole created 4chan, the subversive Web forum where some of the best "memes," or concepts that spread online, were born. Poole, now 23, unveiled his new website at SXSW yesterday. The New York Times reports the site, called Canvas, allows users to upload images and watch as other members on the site add to and remix the content. And, like on 4chan, you won't have to reveal your true identity. While the beta site will be strictly images, Poole hopes to add video and audio support down the road. "It's a shared experience, knowing that you and several other people are experiencing this and participating in helping something unfold in this moment," he said. Canvas has already scored $625,000 in seed money from Andreessen Horowitz and Huffington Post co-founder Kenneth Lerer, among other investors.

Amazon's tax dilemma. State officials grappling with gaping budget holes are putting pressure on Amazon.com to start collecting sales tax. Illinois is the most recent state to mandate that online retailers, like Amazon, that work with in-state affiliates collect sales tax on purchases made by residents. The New York Times reports that Amazon has fought such measures for years, arguing that it should only have to collect taxes in the five states where it has brick-and-mortar stores. Lawmakers say their states are being gypped out of billions of dollars due to online retailers refusing to collect taxes and online customers neglecting to report what they owe when filing taxes. Amazon is so steadfast that it has threatened to sever ties with affiliates in any state where such a law is passed, just like it did in Rhode Island, North Carolina and Colorado.

Start-up road trip. The StartupBus, a sort of Greyhound service for entrepreneurs headed to SXSW in Austin, hosted an on-board hackathon during the road trip. Organizers chose six semifinalists--two from each bus--to pitch in front of a panel of investors to decide who would advance to the finals, according to the New York Observer: "TripMedi, an information and recommendation site for medical tourism (New York), MyNewman, the "anti-social network," (Miami); Mom and Pop Coops, group buying that helps small businesses achieve economies of scale (Cleveland); Shotput, an SMS-based newsletter service (Chicago); WalkIN, a system for real-time reservations (Silicon Valley); and Bouncr, which generates anonymous short links for email addresses (San Francisco)." Finalists will pitch today to a panel of investors at the SXSW Accelerator party.

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Last updated: Mar 14, 2011




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