Gore Address on "Electronic Bill of Rights"
New York University.
Date: May 14, 1998.
Source: Office of Al Gore.  This document was created by scanning a fax of the address, and then converting it to HTML.  Only the portion of the address pertaining to electronic privacy is reproduced here.

Excerpt from Vice President Al Gore's Address at NYU

Fourth, in the 21st Century, government must do more to protect and empower individuals for the Information Age -- to meet new threats to individual liberty. In this Information Age, the key strategic resource is not land or capital - it is knowledge. Your generation will depend not only on seaports and railways and roads -- but also on the best information infrastructure. That is why we are investing so heavily in education, in job training and retraining, in the Next Generation Internet, and in the kind of research that happens here every day -- to fuel the innovation that is the engine of growth in this new economy.

But for all the benefits of the Information Age -- for all the wonders of a technology that can enable you to do research in pure math one moment, and order your favorite brand of hot sauce the next -- new technology always raises new challenges.

In his day, Socrates feared that the introduction of Egyptian paper would disrupt human ties, cause our memories to atrophy, and replace spirited public debate with private communication. We now know that he was dead right.

Today, we see the rise of new fears, ones that are very real. In the course of an average day, you may use your credit card to buy groceries. You may visit the doctor for a check up, and have your health information punched into a database.

You may surf the Web, and send an e-mail to a friend. And at every step of the way, you may be leaving a trail of personal data that can be used or abused by others.

New technology must not reopen the oldest threats to our basic rights, liberty, and privacy. But government should not simply block or regulate all that electronic progress. If we are to move full speed ahead into the Information Age, government must do more to protect your rights - in a way that empowers you more, not less. We need an electronic bill of rights for this electronic age.

Let us start with these fundamental precepts: privacy is a basic American value -- in the Information Age, and in every age. And it must be protected. You should have the right to choose whether your personal information is disclosed; you should have the right to know how, when, and how much of that information is being used; and you should have the right to see it yourself, to know if it's accurate.

That bill of rights must begin in the doctor's office. Today, there is greater protection for your video rental receipts than for your most intimate medical information. I've seen cases where people's prescription drug histories are sold freely to direct mail companies without their permission; where hundreds of employees at an HMO have access to a patients records.

Worst of all, some patients and doctors are now afraid to keep full and accurate medical records, for fear that their rights, will be violated. Without the confidence to keep full and accurate records how can you get the best quality health care?

Today, I call on Congress to enact new legislation that will restrict how your medical records can be used, and make sure you are fully informed, and fully consulted, about their use including the chance to correct them. The Clinton-Gore administration wants to work with Congress to pass this legislation this year; that is our strong preference. However, if they fail to act, it should be noted that we have the authority to act on our own next year,

Today, I am announcing three additional components of our electronic bill of rights, to empower you to protect your own rights and liberties on-line. First, this morning, the Federal Trade Commission is launching a new "opt-out" Website, which enables you to prevent your personal information from being passed on to others. From a single place in cyberspace, you will be able to take steps to stop companies from screening your credit records without your permission; stop direct marketers from buying the information on your driver's license; and stop direct mail companies and telemarketers from using your personal information.

In other words before your credit card records are used by a direct marketer to solicit you, you should have the chance to say no.

Second, President Clinton is calling on the entire federal government to review its own record-keeping -- to make sure we are doing everything possible to protect your personal information, and to make it a permanent priority across the government.

Third, trade and commerce on the Internet are doubling or tripling every year - and in just a few years will be generating hundreds of billions of dollars in sales of goods and services. But we cannot build electronic prosperity without ensuring electronic privacy. Last year we challenged the private sector to come forward with its own steps to protect our rights and liberties for the Information Age. There's been some progress by industry leaders, companies, and trade associations - but we need to do more. Next month, our Commerce Department will convene a special Summit on these issues, to find new ways to empower consumers and protect our oldest values on-line. I am asking that this summit pay special attention to children's privacy -- since we know that our children are the most vulnerable, and sometimes the most willing to innocently disclose information when they are on-line.

That is our electronic bill of rights - new action to protect you from information abuse, new tools to empower you to make your own choices and safeguard your own rights and liberties. I believe it embodies the approach we must adopt for all of government in the 21st Century - a national government that provides the leadership and security individuals cannot provide on their own, but then empowers you with the tools to do the rest for yourselves.