Privacy News

Invasion of Privacy v. Freedom of Speech. (5/30/01) The California Court of Appeal issued its opinion [PDF] in M.G. v. Time Warner, a case involving privacy rights and the California SLAPP statute. This is a case involving old media -- magazines and TV -- not Internet technology; however, the legal issues involved also pertain to Internet media and speakers. The Court held that in this case the claim of the individuals' whose privacy was invaded by the reporting of Time Warner overcomes the news medium's SLAPP motion.

Supreme Court Diminishes Electronic Privacy. (5/21/01) The Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion [PDF] in Barnicki v. Vopper, holding that a radio host cannot be sued for playing an audio recording of a cellular telephone conversation, despite a federal statute which made illegal both the interception of the conversation, and its disclosure by the radio host. The majority reasoned that the case pitted statutes banning disclosure of illegally obtained electronic communications against the First Amendment freedom of speech claims of persons with illegally obtained recordings to disclose them if their content pertains to a public issue.

Senate Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on Muris Nomination. (5/16/01) The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Timothy Muris to be Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. The hearing, which covered several other nominees as well, went smoothly for Muris, and all nominees. Republicans and Democrats expressed their support. Members questioned Muris about both online privacy and antitrust enforcement, but he said little in response.

Privacy Coalition Wants Legislators to Sign a Pledge. (2/12/01) A collection of groups named the Privacy Coalition will hold a press conference in Washington DC on February 12 to release a document named "The Privacy Pledge." The coalition wants Members of Congress and state legislators to sign this pledge to support a list of online privacy proposals.

Reps. Eshoo and Cannon Introduce Online Privacy Bill. (1/24/01) Reps. Eshoo and Cannon introduced an online privacy bill in the House. It would prevent a commercial web site operator from collecting personally identifiable information from users of the web site unless it first gives notice of what information is collected and how it will be used, and gives the users the opportunity to limit the use of that information. See, HR 237 IH.

Sen. Wyden Predicts Congress Will Pass a Privacy Bill This Year. (1/22/01) Sen. Wyden predicted that Congress will send an online privacy bill to the President this year. He spoke at a policy luncheon in Washington DC on January 19. Rep. Tauzin described the role of Congress as "helping to making sure the private sector does as good a job as possible in this area with as little federal intervention as possible".

FTC Comments on Privacy in Bankruptcy Proceedings. (10/2/00) The FTC submitted comments to a group of federal agencies that are studying how bankruptcy proceedings affect the privacy of individuals involved in, or affected by, those proceedings. The FTC advised that personal information in the public record in bankruptcy proceedings can be used to facilitate identity theft and other illegal activities.

House Committee Delays Adoption of Electronic Communications Privacy Act. (9/22/00) The House Judiciary Committee began its mark up of HR 5108, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 2000, on Thursday, September 21, but delayed further consideration until Tuesday, September 26.

97% of Government Web Sites Fail the FTC's Online Privacy Test. (9/13/00) The GAO released a report on the privacy practices of federal government web sites. It conducted a survey of 65 web sites, and found that only 3% complied with all four of the "fair information practices" that the FTC applies to commercial web sites.

Administration Proposes Legislation for Searches and Seizures in Cyberspace. (7/18/00) John Podesta, White House Chief of Staff, gave a speech in Washington DC on July 17 in which he outlined a Clinton administration proposal for legislation to define rules governing searches and seizures in cyberspace. See, speech by John Podesta.

Administration Eases Encryption Export Restraints. (7/18/00) The Clinton administration announced further relaxation of encryption export restraints on Monday, July 17. Under the new policy, U.S. producers of encryption products can export to both government and non-government end users in the European Union and several other industrial democracies without a license and without waiting for completion of a technical review.

Senate Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Identity Theft. (7/13/00) The Senate Technology Subcommittee held another hearing on identity theft on July 12. Sen. Feinstein is sponsoring legislation to restrict the purchase of social security numbers over the Internet, one means by which criminals are able to assume another person's identity. See, S 2699 IS.

FTC Files Suit to Bar Sale of Toysmart's Customer Data. (7/10/00) The FTC filed a complaint in federal court against Toysmart to prevent it from selling customer data in violation of its privacy policy. See, Complaint.

Netscape and AOL Sued for Alleged Privacy Violation. (7/6/00) A complaint was filed against Netscape and AOL in federal court alleging that Netscape's SmartDownload plug in secretly steals private information of third parties in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. See, copy of Complaint.

FTC Commissioner Predicts the Next Congress Will Pass an Online Privacy Bill. (6/27/00) FTC Commissioner Swindle predicted at a forum in Washington DC that the next Congress will pass an online privacy bill. He also stated that privacy advocates are demagoging the issue, and consumers will rue the day when privacy legislation is passed. See, transcript of remarks.

FTC Seeks Authority to Regulate Online Privacy. (5/23/00) The FTC issued a lengthy report on Monday, May 22 in which it requests wide authority to regulate web sites' information collection practices. The report recommends that Congress pass legislation to empower the FTC to pass rules requiring web sites to give notice of their information practices, to allow individuals to control how their data is used, to allow individuals to access and correct their data, and to require security measures.

House CIP Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Online Privacy. (5/18/00) The House Courts and Intellectual Property Subcommittee held a hearing on online privacy on May 18. Administration officials offered no new recommendations for legislation.

Appeals Court Hears Oral Argument in CALEA Case. (5/18/00) The Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in USTA v. FCC, a challenge to the FCC's CALEA, order on Wednesday, May 18. The Court did not rule.

Suit Raises Rights of Internet Users When ISPs Are Subpoenaed for Personal Information. (5/14/00) An anonymous chat room poster filed a John Doe lawsuit against Yahoo! for responding to a subpoena for information about him in another lawsuit. Yahoo! provided no notice of the subpoena to the John Doe before providing his personal information. See, Complaint.

Levitt Explains SEC's Planned Anti-Fraud Webcrawler. (4/6/00) SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt responded to criticism of the SEC's plans to use a webcrawler to search for securities fraud on the Internet. Privacy groups had objected. See, Levitt statement.

EPIC Releases Survey of Encryption Policies Worldwide. (4/3/00) The EPIC released its third annual international study of encryption policies on April 3. It found that e-commerce and privacy protection concerns have led governments to relax regulations.

DoubleClick Changes Data Collection Plans. (3/6/00) DoubleClick CEO Kevin O'Connor stated on March 2 that for now his company will not link personally identifiable information to anonymous user activity across web sites. Last month EPIC and other groups complained to the Federal Trade Commission about DoubleClick's privacy practices. See, DoubleClick Statement.

Congressional Delegation Discusses Privacy and Taxes with EU. (2/24/00) Rep. Goodlatte, Rep. Boucher, and other members of a Congressional delegation are in Europe to meet with their counterparts during this week's recess of the House of Representatives. They have discussed Internet privacy and taxes.

FTC Picks Fight with Appropriations Committee Chairman. (2/12/00) FTC Chairman Pitofsky, who is seeking a huge increase in the FTC's budget to expand its activities, just started a brawl with Sen. Stevens, the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, over oil company mergers. The dispute, ironically, could impact the FTC's regulation of Internet activity.

EPIC Files Complaint with FTC against DoubleClick. (2/11/00) The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint with the FTC alleging that DoubleClick's online privacy practices constitute unfair and deceptive trade practices. See, Complaint.

Goodlatte and Cox Condemn Chinese Encryption Policy. (2/9/00) Rep. Goodlatte and Rep. Cox both issued statements strongly criticizing the government of mainland China for banning U.S. made encryption products, and restricting the privacy rights its citizens.

Another Online Privacy Bill Filed in House. (2/8/00). Rep. Frelinghuysen filed the Online Privacy Protection Act of 2000 in the U.S. House on January 31. It is the House companion to a bill filed in the Senate last April by Sen. Burns and Sen. Wyden. See, HR 3560.

EPIC Brief Argues that FCC CALEA Order Violates Privacy Rights. (1/21/00) The Electronic Privacy Information Center and other public interest petitioners filed their brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals arguing that the FCC's CALEA Order should be vacated. EPIC argues that the Order intrudes on Internet and phone communications privacy in violation of the Fourth Amendment and federal statutes. See, EPIC's Brief.

Commerce Department Releases Encryption Export Regulations. (1/13/00) The Commerce Department released its long awaited regulations to relax encryption export restraints on Wednesday, January 12. They provide that any encryption product of any key length can be exported under a license exception after a technical review to any non-government end-user in any country except for the seven state supporters of terrorism.

Presidential Candidate Forbes Gives Address on Privacy. (12/18/99) Steve Forbes, a Republican presidential candidate, gave a speech on Thursday, December 16, in Washington regarding what a Forbes administration would do to protect individuals' privacy. See, copy of speech.

Advocates Split Over Which Threatens Privacy More - Governments or Commerce. (12/21/99) Steve Forbes last week accused the administration of drafting regulations that would allow the government to violate individuals' medical records privacy. He also stated that "the biggest and most serious threat to our privacy comes from a massive federal government ..." This runs counter to the school of thought that it is corporations, not the government, that pose the bigger privacy problem.

Administration Delays Encryption Export Regulations. (12/14/99) The Clinton administration announced that it will delay the release of its new encryption export regulations, which it previously promised by December 15.

Lofgren Seeks Revisions to Draft Encryption Export Regulations. (12/8/99) Rep. Zoe Lofgren wrote a letter to President Clinton on December 6 in which she stated that she is distressed with the draft encryption regulations released by the administration on November 23. She wants to see many changes in the final regulations, which the administration has promised by December 15. See, Lofgren Letter to Clinton.

EPIC Sues NSA for Signals Intelligence Documents. (12/6/99) The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington DC on December 3 against the National Security Agency to compel it to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for documents pertaining to the legality of its signals intelligence activities. The NSA's refusal to provide these same documents to the House Intelligence Committee promoted Chairman Porter Goss to issue a scathing denunciation last May. See, EPIC Complaint and Rep. Goss's Statement.

Appeals Courts Flooded with Petitions for Review of FCC CALEA Order. (11/24/99) The FCC's CALEA Order, released on August 31, has been challenged in at least four separate petitions for review filed with U.S. Appeals Courts. The Order pertains to "wiretaps" of new communications technologies.

Representatives Caution Clinton About Encryption Export Regulations. (11/12/99) The bipartisan cosponsors of HR 850, the SAFE Act, and House Republican leaders wrote letters to President Clinton this week warning him that the administration's encryption export regulations to be announced on December 15 should live up to the administration's policy announcements of September 16.

HHS Announces Proposed Electronic Medical Records Privacy Regulations. (10/30/99) The Department of Health and Human Services released proposed regulations for protecting the privacy of electronic medical records on Friday, October 29. Congress considered several bills earlier this year, but failed to pass a comprehensive medical records bill.

Senate Holds Hearing on Standards in E-Commerce. (10/29/99) The Senate Science Subcommittee held a hearing on Thursday, October 28 on the role of standards in the growth of global electronic commerce. Witnesses and Senators agreed that interoperability is essential, but that governments should not set standards. Sen. Conrad Burns and Andrew Pincus of the Commerce Dept. also discussed online privacy legislation.

Rep. Lofgren Calls for SAFE Act to be Held in Abeyance. (10/6/99) Rep. Zoe Lofgren said at a forum on the administration's encryption policy proposal that the SAFE Act should be held "in abeyance." Rep. Tom Davis stated that it is still scheduled for the House floor later this month. William Reinsch of the Commerce Department restated the administration's opposition to the SAFE Act.

Administration Addresses Encryption Reform Proposal. (9/29/99) Four representatives of the Clinton administration discussed the September 16 proposals to liberalize encryption export restraints, and other matters, at a luncheon forum in Washington DC hosted by the Internet Caucus. Administration representatives promised to consult with industry regarding new regulations, to be drafted by December 15. Meanwhile, Rep. Goodlatte said that the SAFE Act is "alive and well." See, transcript.

Rep. Weldon Criticizes Administration Encryption Reversal. (9/29/99) Rep. Curt Weldon harshly criticized the administration's "about face in policy" on encryption at a luncheon forum on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, September 28. Rep. Weldon is a strong supporter of the administration's previous policy.

Clinton Administration Talks Encryption. (9/17/99) With the House of Representatives close to a vote on the Security and Freedom through Encryption (SAFE) Act, the Clinton administration announced a new set of encryption policy proposals, including liberalization of export restraints.

Reaction to Clinton Encryption Proposals. (9/17/99) The Clinton administration's encryption policy proposals of September 16 won guarded praise from many encryption rights proponents, including Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the sponsor and lead co-sponsor of the SAFE Act, and Sen. John McCain and Sen. Conrad Burns, sponsor and cosponsor of the PROTECT Act.

Gephardt, Lofgren and Eshoo Write Clinton on Encryption Bill. (9/14/99) Representatives Richard Gephardt, Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo wrote a letter to President Bill Clinton today urging him to support HR 850, the SAFE Act. See, letter.

Tony Blair Promises No Government Mandated Key Escrow. (9/13/99) British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a speech on the information economy and Internet policy on Monday, September 13, 1999. He encouraged the British to embrace the Internet, advocated industry self-regulation, outlined government efforts to promote computer literacy, and promised that the government would not mandate key escrow. See, Blair speech.

FCC CALEA Decision Upsets Industry and Privacy Groups. (8/28/99) The FCC released a summary of its CALEA implementation decision on Friday, August 27. Industry and privacy groups accused the FCC of exceeding its authority under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, placing unreasonable financial burdens on industry, and violating the privacy and Constitutional rights of Americans. Janet Reno, Louis Freeh, and the companies that make the affected equipment were pleased.

Online Privacy Bill Runs Aground. (7/27/99) The Senate Telecom Subcommittee held a hearing on legislation to protect online privacy on Tuesday, July 27. Sen. Burns and Sen. Wyden are cosponsoring S 809, the Online Privacy Protection Act. Earlier this month the FTC issued a report opposing any new legislation at this time.

House Panel Holds Hearing on Medical Records Privacy. (7/19/99) The House Health Subcommittee held a hearing on medical records privacy legislation on Thursday, July 15. The members are split roughly along party lines between a Republican bill sponsored by Rep. Greenwood, and a Democratic bill sponsored by Rep. Condit.

Reaction to FTC Report Opposing Privacy Legislation. (7/16/99) The FTC's July 13 report which opposed enactment of any new online privacy laws at this time has been commended by the administration, and industry groups, but criticized by privacy groups and legislators seeking to pass online privacy bills.

House Panel Holds Hearing on Online Privacy. (7/14/99) Robert Pitofsky, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, testified before the House Telecom Subcommittee that "legislation to address online privacy is not appropriate at this time." While most members of the subcommittee agreed, or stated no position, Rep. Ed Markey complained bitterly that legislation is necessary.

FTC Opposes Online Privacy Legislation. (7/13/99) The Federal Trade Commission released a report which concludes that "legislation to address online privacy is not appropriate at this time." It states that online companies have made progress towards self-regulation, as evidenced by new surveys showing increased adoption of privacy policies, and use of online seal programs.

DOJ Files Petition for Rehearing in Bernstein Case. (6/23/99) The U.S. Department of Justice filed a petition on Monday, June 21, with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals requesting an en banc rehearing of the Court's May 6 decision holding that  encryption export restraints constitute a prior restraint of free speech. See, copy of Petition for Rehearing.

Rush Limbaugh Criticizes DOJ on Encryption Exports. (6/23/99) Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh criticized the Clinton administration decision to seek an en banc rehearing in the Bernstein encryption case on his daily show on Tuesday, June 22. He said that it was inconsistent with the administration's transfer of satellite technology to China. Moreover, he called the administration's encryption policy "a day late and a dollar short."

Spam Bills Proliferate in the 106th Congress. (6/20/99) When freshman Rep. Gary Miller filed his "Can Spam Act" on June 10, it joined a host of other bills which deal with unsolicited bulk electronic mail. Most of the bills appear to have more to do with giving ISPs and EMSPs control over the flow of bulk e-mail, than in protecting ordinary users from unwanted messages in their e-mail boxes.

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on PROTECT Act. (6/11/99) The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on Thursday morning, June 10, on Sen. McCain's encryption bill, the PROTECT Act. Sen. John McCain introduced his bill on April 14. Since then, it has been opposed by administration officials, and described as not going far enough by encryption proponents, who tend to favor HR 850, the SAFE Act.

House Intelligence Committee Questions Need for SAFE Act. (6/10/99) The House Select Committee on Intelligence held a hearing on the SAFE Act on June 9. The Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Porter Goss, and other members, are opposed to the encryption bill.

Group Releases International Survey of Encryption Policies. (6/10/99) The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington DC based interest group which primarily advocates for civil liberties and privacy rights in electronic media, released its second annual survey and report on encryption policies around the world. The report concludes that most nations have no encryption controls, and that the trend is towards relaxation of regulations.

Goodlatte Promotes SAFE Act at Network Associates Event. (6/2/99) Rep. Bob Goodlatte promoted the SAFE Act, and encouraged others to ask their Members of Congress to support the bill, in an address to a Network Associates conference held near Washington DC on Wednesday, June 2.

House Telecom Subcommittee Holds Hearing on SAFE Act. (5/26/99) The House Telecommunications Subcommittee held a hearing on May 25 on HR 850, the SAFE Act. The Clinton-Gore administration sent representatives to testify against the bill. The software and e-commerce industry sent representatives to testify in favor of the bill. Rep. Markey chastised industry for not adequately protecting consumer privacy online. See, Statement of Rep. Markey.

House Subcommittee Criticizes Administration Opposition to SAFE Act. (5/18/99) The House International Economic Policy and Trade Subcommittee held a hearing on the SAFE Act on Tuesday afternoon, May 18. Administration officials who testified in opposition to the bill were met with tough questions, blunt criticism, and ridicule.

Ninth Circuit Rules Encryption Export Regulations Violate First Amendment. (5/10/99) The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in the case Bernstein v. Department of Justice holding that U.S. encryption export regulations violate First Amendment free speech rights. See, 9th Circuit Opinion.

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Medical Privacy. (4/28/99) The Senate Labor Committee held a hearing on legislation to protect the privacy of medical records on Tuesday, April 27. Sen. Bennett and Sen. Leahy, who are sponsoring competing bills, led off the testimony. Sen. Jeffords, who chaired the hearing, is likely to introduce yet a third bill.

Sen. Bennett Introduces Medical Records Privacy Bill. (4/26/99) Sen. Robert Bennett introduced the Medical Information Protection Act (MIPA) on Monday, April 26. The bill competes with S 573 which was introduced by Sen. Pat Leahy last month, and a yet to be introduced bill being drafted by Sen. Jim Jeffords and Sen. Chris Dodd. Congress has a self-imposed deadline of August for acting on medical records privacy. See, copy of the MIPA.

eBay's Whitman Addresses Political Issues Affecting E-Commerce. (4/21/99) Margaret Whitman, of online auction web site eBay, spoke at the National Press Club on Tuesday, April 20, on a variety of business and political issues affecting e-commerce. She argued that no new regulation of privacy online is necessary.

Burns and Wyden Introduce Online Privacy Bill. (4/18/99) Sen. Conrad Burns and Sen. Ron Wyden introduced the Online Privacy Protection Act on Thursday, April 15. The bill would limit the way web sites and online services collect and disseminate personal information about individuals without their consent. It would require web sites and online services to post notices about their information collection and use policies, and allow individuals to prevent disclosure of certain personal information. See, copy of Online Privacy Protection Act.

Sen. McCain Introduces Encryption Bill. (4/15/99) Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced the "Promote Reliable On Line Transactions to Encourage Commerce and Trade (PROTECT) Act" on Wednesday, April 14. The bill would allow exportation of encryption of key lengths up to 64 bits, and allow for exportation of encryption above 64 bits to responsible entities and governments of NATO, ASEAN, and the OECD. See, copy of the PROTECT Act.

Rep. Markey Proposes Federal Regulation to Protect Online Privacy. (4/7/99) Rep. Edward Markey proposed new federal legislation of electronic commerce companies for the purpose of protecting the privacy of consumers. He was a keynote speaker at the Computer, Freedom & Privacy 1999 convention in Washington DC. See, copy of Rep.Markey's address, as delivered.

Thompson Addresses Online Privacy and Internet Fraud. (4/7/99) FTC Commissioner Mozelle Thompson addressed online privacy and Internet fraud in a keynote address at the CFP 99 conference on Wednesday, April 7, in Washington DC.

Barr Encourages Privacy Advocates to Deluge Congress. (4/6/99) Rep. Bob Barr encouraged privacy advocates who gathered for the Computers, Freedom & Privacy 1999 conference to deluge Members of Congress "through cards, postcards, e-mails, letters, faxes, phone calls, whatever it takes, personal visits, to make sure that these issues rise to the level of being on the radar screen of Members of Congress." Rep. also stated that he wants Congressional hearings on Project Echelon. See, copy of Rep. Barr's address.

Sen. McCain to Introduce an Encryption Bill. (4/1/99) Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced in a press release dated March 31, 1999 that he would introduce a bill in the Senate pertaining to encryption when the Senate returns from the spring recess. The release states that the bill would "allow for exportation of encryption of key lengths of up to 64 bits."

House Judiciary Committee Approves SAFE Act. (3/25/99) The House Judiciary Committee approved the SAFE Act by a unanimous voice vote on Wednesday, March 24. The encryption bill also has to be approved by the House International Relations Committee.

Sen. Leahy Introduces Medical Records Privacy Bill. (3/11/99) Sen. Patrick Leahy introduced S 573, the Medical Information Privacy and Security Act, on Wednesday, March 10. The bill is one of several proposals for protecting the privacy of individuals' medical records.

Encryption Bill Reintroduced in House. (2/25/99) Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, and over 200 other members of the House of Representatives are re-introducing the Security and Freedom through Encryption (SAFE) Act. The bill would ensure that Americans can use any type of encryption, prohibit the government from mandating a backdoor into people's computer systems, and relax current export controls on encryption products.

Goodlatte and Boucher Criticize British Key Escrow Proposals. (2/18/99) Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Rep. Rick Boucher expressed concern over key encryption proposals in the United Kingdom on Tuesday, February 16. The two are part of a Congressional delegation in Europe to discuss electronic commerce issues. The House of Representatives is in recess this week.

Online Privacy Proposals Abound in Congress. (2/16/99) It has been barely a month since the 106th Congress began, yet there are already several proposals that would affect the way web sites and online services collect and disseminate personal information. Sen. Burns released a discussion draft of his proposal on Friday, February 12. Representatives Vento and Franks submitted their bills last month.

Daley and Pitofsky Hold Joint Press Conference on E-Commerce and Privacy. (2/6/99) Secretary of Commerce William Daley and FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky held a press conference on Friday, February 5, to announce that the Department of Commerce will start keeping annual statistics on commercial sales on the Internet. Currently, Internet sales are included in the catalogue sales category. Both men also reiterated that industry should take the lead on privacy issues, through self-regulation. Both were silent on encryption.

State of the Union Address Slim on High Tech Policy. (1/20/99) President Bill Clinton read his annual "State of the Union" speech to the Congress on Tuesday night, January 19. It contained little discussion of high tech policies. However, it did touch on the Year 2000 conversion problem, privacy in electronically stored medical records, and terrorist threats to computer infrastructure. See, copy of speech.

See also, Privacy Stories from 1998.