Focusing public attention on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues

Previous Top News 1999

  • EPIC Releases New Report on Online Privacy. "Surfer Beware III: Privacy Policies without Privacy Protection" finds that none of the top 100 shopping web sites adequately protect consumer privacy." EPIC recommends legislation to enforce "Fair Information Practices" and the development of Privacy Enhancing Techniques to protect anonymity. Press release.
  • OECD Adopts Consumer Protection Guidelines. The member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have agreed to Guidelines for Consumer Protection in the Context of Electronic Commerce [PDF] that aim to protect consumers in the online world. The Guidelines for Consumer Protection also reaffirm support for the OECD Privacy Guidelines of 1980.
  • Privacy Commissioners Find Safe Harbor Proposal Inadequate. The Article 29 Working Party, a group of European Privacy Commissioners established by the EU Data Protection Directive, has issued their opinion (PDF) on the latest draft of the Safe Harbor principles. The expert group found the Safe Harbor principles unsatisfactory in comparison to the current data protection laws in the EU.
  • Supreme Court Decides Case on Police Record Privacy. As reported in an article by the Washington Post, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Los Angeles Police Department v. United Reporting. By a 7-2 vote, the court found that restricting access to police records to journalists, scholars or government officials is a proper protection of state records and does not violate the First Amendment right of businesses.
  • US and European Consumer Organizations Call for Effective International Privacy Safeguards. In formal comments to US Under Secretary David Aaron the TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), representing consumer organizations from the United States, Canada and Europe, said that the Safe Harbor proposal "still fails to provide adequate data protection for the transfer of personal information from citizens in EU countries to companies in the United States." The groups urged the adoption of stronger measures to ensure that "the loss of consumer privacy is not the cost of the information economy."
  • EPIC Sues for NSA Interception Documents. EPIC has asked a federal court to order the release of controversial documents concerning potential government surveillance of American citizens. EPIC's lawsuit (PDF) seeks the public disclosure of internal National Security Agency (NSA) documents discussing the legality of the agency's intelligence activities. See the press release for more details, and EPIC's Former Secrets page for examples of other government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act..
  • Advocates Call on FTC, Software Companies to Stop Secret Profiling. Privacy and consumers groups and a leading security expert have asked the Federal Trade Commission to require software makers to close a technical loophole in many popular email systems that allows senders of bulk commercial email to track the surfing behavior of people who merely read the email. Also see the recent 60 Minutes special and learn what the profiling industry does with your data. Then head on down to the mall.
  • Draft Crypto Regs Fall Short of Administration Promises. The Commerce Department has released draft regulations on encryption exports. The proposed revision would establish a complex and burdensome regulatory regime that falls far short of the major liberalization promised by the Administration in its September announcement of a policy change.
  • EPIC, ACLU and EFF Challenge New Wiretap Rules. The groups are asking the federal courts to block new rules that would enable the FBI to dictate the design of the nation's communication infrastructure. The challenged rules -- adopted by the FCC under the controversial Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) -- would enable the Bureau to track the physical locations of cellular phone users and monitor Internet traffic. See the press release on the court challenge for more information.
  • ACLU Launches ECHELON Website. The American Civil Liberties Union, in conjunction with Omega Foundation and EPIC, has launched a new web site www.echelonwatch.org, which is designed to focus public attention on the threats to civil liberties which are posed by Project ECHELON.
  • Safe Harbor or Pirates Cove? The Department of Commerce has posted a revised version of its privacy principles and "Frequently Asked Questions" that provide guidance to U.S. organizations seeking to take advantage of the "safe harbor" proposal instead of actually providing privacy protections for their customers in Europe and the United States. Comments from the public are due by December 3.
  • Court Accepts Petition to File Amicus on Telephone Privacy Case. The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has accepted (PDF) the petition of fifteen consumer and privacy organizations, and 22 law professors and privacy scholars to file a "friend of the court brief" urging a federals appeals court to reconsider a decision that would eliminate an FCC safeguard which protects the privacy of telephone customer records. More information on FCC v. US West.
  • Supreme Court Hears Case on Drivers' Records Privacy. Oral arguments in Reno v. Condon -- a case on the constitutionality of federal regulation over the distribution of information contained within state driving records -- were heard by the Supreme Court. EPIC's amicus "friend of the court" brief [PDF] argued that the 1994 Drivers Privacy Protection Act is a proper exercise of federal legislative authority.
  • EPIC Joins Statement Against Internet Wiretapping. On November 10, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) -- a group devoted to developing technical standards for the Internet -- will discuss a proposal to adopt standards that would facilitate government surveillance of the Internet. In response to the proposal, EPIC -- along with other experts in privacy, cryptography and network security -- has endorsed an open letter to the IETF opposing such standards.
  • Privacy Groups Call for Halt to Online Profiling. At a Public Workshop on Online Profiling held on November 8, privacy groups issued a joint press release calling for the FTC to halt the practice pending the legislation of strong privacy protections. Online profiling -- the creation of consumer Web surfing and buying behavior histories by online advertisers -- intrudes on privacy and unfairly impacts consumer choice. On November 15, at a trade meeting on profile-based advertising, the groups also presented a list of practices that ecommerce companies can follow to protect the privacy of their customers.
  • Internet Censorship Battle Returns to the Courts. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit will hear oral arguments on November 4 in ACLU v. Reno II, the constitutional challenge to the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). In February, a federal judge blocked enforcement of the Internet censorship law after the ACLU, EPIC and other organizations filed suit. For complete details, see the EPIC COPA Litigation Page. In another Internet censorship case, the Tenth Circuit has issued a decision striking down a New Mexico law that sought to criminalize the online distribution of material that is "harmful to minors."
  • New Medical Privacy Regulations Released. On October 29, the President announced a new set of proposed federal regulations protecting the privacy of electronically stored medical records. The regulations (PDF) -- produced by the Department of Health and Human Services in concert with multiple federal agencies -- are the first federal protections of medical privacy. The Department of Health and Human Services began drafting the regulations when Congress failed to pass federal legislation covering medical privacy on August 21 of this past year. The rules are available for public comment over the next sixty days.
  • Organizations, Legal Scholars File Brief in Support of Telephone Privacy. Fifteen consumer and privacy organizations, and 22 law professors and privacy scholars have filed a "friend of the court brief" urging a federals appeals court to reconsider a decision that would eliminate an FCC safeguard which protects the privacy of telephone customer records. More information on FCC v. US West.
  • Big Brother Awards Held in Austria. The Austrian Big Brother Awards were recently handed out to the Austrian officials who most egregiously invaded the privacy of Austrian citizens. Video and MP3 downloads are available at the website.
  • FTC Sets Rules for Children's Privacy Online. On October 20, the Federal Trade Commission released standards to protect children's privacy online. The rules (PDF), scheduled to take effect in April, require Web sites to gain parental consent for children's disclosure of personal information and specify procedures for the posting of privacy policies.
  • Final Draft of Model State Public Health Privacy Act Available. The Model State Public Health Privacy Project has completed a final version (PDF) of a Model State Public Health Privacy Act. The project sought to develop a model state law addressing privacy and confidentiality issues arising from the collection, use, and dissemination of health information by public health departments at the state and local levels, with special consideration of HIV/AIDS status. For more information about the protection of health records, see the EPIC page on medical privacy.
  • UK Big Brother Awards Announced. The 1999 Big Brother Awards were announced this week at an event jointly sponsored by the London School of Economics and Privacy International. Big Brother Awards were given to the government and private sector organisations that have done the most to destroy personal privacy in Britain. "Winstons" (for Winston Smith from Orwell's 1984) were also presented to defenders of privacy.
  • EPIC Submits Comments for Online Profiling Workshop. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the United States Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission will hold a public workshop on online profiling on November 8. EPIC has filed a request to participate and comments (PDF) on the effectiveness of industry self-regulation with regards to the surreptitious collection of information from individuals. EPIC argues that -- in the absence of meaningful legal protections -- online profiling techniques will continue to erode the privacy of Internet users. On November 30, EPIC also submitted reply comments (PDF) after the workshop.
  • EPIC Sues Trade Commission for Privacy Complaints. In an effort to assess the effectiveness of current federal privacy protections, EPIC has filed a lawsuit (PDF) against the Federal Trade Commission seeking the disclosure of privacy complaints received by the agency. EPIC contends that the FTC has failed to take action on complaints that the agency has received from consumers.
  • "Public Voice" Conference Offers New Perspective on E-Commerce. Bringing together participants from over twenty-five countries representing international consumer, labor, and civil liberties organizations, the 1999 Public Voice in Electronic Commerce conference -- co-organized by EPIC -- sought to address the concerns of the public in the development of international e-commerce policy. While e-commerce policy is normally formed solely by business and governments, the conference presented the interests of the larger population. The conference was held in conjuntion with the Forum on Electronic Commerce put on by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international think-tank that provides an arena for formation and agreeement on international policies.
  • Appellate Argument Set in Internet Censorship Case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit will hear oral arguments on November 4 in the constitutional challenge to the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). The censorship law was declared unconstitutional by a lower court earlier this year in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, EPIC and other plaintiffs. For details on the case, including the challengers' brief, see the EPIC COPA Litigation Page.
  • Bill Protecting Driver's License Information Sent to White House. The Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act 2000, in an amendment offered by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), provides two new protections for driver's license information. The first repeals an earlier law requiring Social Security numbers to be displayed on all driver's licenses. The second provision in the amendment takes away federal funding in this bill for states that do not obtain a driver's permission before selling their information to third parties. More information about the privacy risks associated with Social Security numbers and their inclusion on driver's licenses is available from EPIC. The bill has passed Congress and is currently waiting the President's approval.
  • Ninth Circuit Grants Motion for Rehearing in Crypto Case. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted the Department of Justice motion for rehearing in the closely watched encryption case Bernstein v. DOJ. The Ninth Circuit had ruled in May that the Export Administration Regulations constitute a "prior restraint on speech that offends the First Amendment." EPIC and various civil liberties and scientific organizations filed an amicus brief in that case.
  • Administration Announces New Encryption Policy. On September 16, the White House announced revisions to U.S. export controls on encryption, the specific details of which have not yet been drafted. As part of its new initiative, the Administration released a final version of the Cyberspace Electronic Security Act (CESA), which addresses law enforcement access to decryption keys; funding for the Technical Support Center in the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and protecting the confidentiality of government techniques used to obtain access to plaintext. EPIC is questioning whether the privacy of average users will truly be enhanced under the new policy. A complete archive of materials is available, including the text of CESA and a transcript of the White House press briefing.
  • Privacy Advocates Chart Course for the 21st Century. Supporters of privacy from around the world gathered in Hong Kong for the 1999 Privacy Agenda Conference. At the conference, representatives from an international group of non-governmental organizations issued a declaration supporting strong privacy protections and continued vigilance against privacy abuses. Also see the press release for more information about the conference.
  • EPIC Releases New International Privacy Survey. With co-author Privacy International, EPIC has released "Privacy and Human Rights 1999: An International Survey of Privacy Laws and Developments" at an annual meeting of Privacy Commissioners in Hong Kong. The new report, updated and expanded from last year's edition, tracks the status of privacy protections in over fifty countries around the world. The survey found that there is growing recognition of the need for comprehensive data protection laws but warns that new technologies, companies, and governments still often abuse privacy.
  • Free Speech Groups Criticize Proposed Internet Content Ratings. At the Internet Content Summit in Munich on September 9, nineteen civil liberties groups, including EPIC, released a statement opposing proposed international content rating standards. In the statement, the organizations say that content rating standards "should be viewed more realistically as fundamental architectural changes that may, in fact, facilitate the suppression of speech far more effectively than national laws alone ever could."
  • EPIC Releases Report at Internet Content Summit. The Internet Content Summit, beginning on September 9 in Munich, brings together Internet heavyweights AOL Europe, Microsoft, IBM, British Telecom, and Bertelsmann to establish new international standards for Internet content rating. In response to this meeting, a group of international civil liberties organizations produced a collection of essays titled "Filters and Freedom: Free Speech Perspectives on Internet Content Controls". The studies and critiques in this collection examine the harmful effects of content rating on free speech. "Filters and Freedom" is currently available in the EPIC Bookstore.
  • New Documents Reveal Secret Service Role in National Identity Database. As reported in Wired News, Image Data -- a company seeking to provide a new method of stopping credit card and check fraud -- has been building a database of cross-referenced photographs and purchase histories. Documents obtained by EPIC through Freedom of Information Act requests show the role of the Secret Service in directing and funding Image Data's pilot programs. In its project of establishing an unprecedented national identity database, Image Data purchases driver's license photos without the permission or knowledge of citizens.
  • FCC Approves FBI Wiretap Standards for Telecom Networks. EPIC has expressed its concern that a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision issued on August 27 could result in a significant increase in government interception of digital communications (see FCC press release for summary). In its decision, the FCC largely has adopted technical standards proposed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that would dictate the design of the nation's telecommunications networks. Included is a requirement that cellular telephone networks must have the ability to track the physical location of cell phone users.
  • Federal Court Severely Restricts Consumer Privacy. On August 18, the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision that erodes consumer control over telephone usage information. The court ruled that phone companies can sell or give consumer proprietary network information (CPNI) -- which includes the location, duration, and frequency of phone calls -- to telemarketers without the explicit permission of customers. The Federal Communications Commission has announced that it will appeal the decision.
  • White House Proposes Police Break-ins to Access Computer Files. The Clinton Administration is circulating draft legislation that would authorize the FBI and local police to secretly enter private homes and businesses to alter computer equipment in order to gain access to the "plaintext" of e-mail and other electronic files. See the Washington Post coverage and EPIC's press release for more details.
  • Clinton Creates High-Level Working Group on Internet Crime. On August 5, President Clinton issued an Executive Order establishing "a working group to address unlawful conduct that involves the use of the Internet." It will be chaired by the Attorney General, and members will include the Director of the FBI and other law enforcement officials.
  • Committee Bars Funds for FBI "Critical Infrastructure" Plan. The House Appropriations Committee has prohibited expenditures for a proposed Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) program of monitoring non-military Government computer networks and communications networks used by "crucial" private sector industries. EPIC has reiterated its concerns that governmental efforts to protect the "critical infrastructure" pose serious threats to the privacy and civil liberties of American citizens. See EPIC's Critical Infrastructure Protection Resources for our October 1998 report "Critical Infrastructure Protection and the Endangerment of Civil Liberties" and scanned excerpts from the White House "National Plan for Information Systems Protection."
  • EPIC Testifies on Online Privacy. On July 27, EPIC Director Marc Rotenberg testified [PDF] before the Senate Commerce Committtee regarding the recent report of the Federal Trade Commission and the Online Privacy Protection Act, S. 809. See EPIC's press release for the details of the testimony.
  • House Committees Gut SAFE Crypto Bill. Two House Committees have completely overhauled the Security and Freedom Through Encryption (SAFE) bill, which would relax export controls on encryption. The revised language and legislative reports issued by the House Armed Services Committee and the House Intelligence Committee are available online. The various versions of the SAFE bill will now go to the House Rules Committee, which will decide which language will be presented to the full House.
  • New Report on Kids Privacy. Privacy, consumer and children's advocacy organizations have released a new report that warns that many commercial web sites continue to collect information on young children without parental permission. The Center for Media Education, the Consumer Federation of America and Junkbusters urged the Federal Trade Commission to adopt clear and effective safeguards for children's online privacy.
  • New Survey on Medical Privacy in the States. The Health Privacy Project has released a new report on medical privacy laws in the United States. "The State of Health Privacy: An Uneven Terrain" finds that many states have some form of privacy protection for medical records, but the coverage is often uneven and rarely comprehensive.
  • EPIC Testifies on Financial Privacy. EPIC Director Marc Rotenberg testified before the House Banking Committee on July 21 in support of new privacy safeguards for consumers. House and Senate proposals for financial modernization will be considered later this year. Privacy safeguards remain a key concern. Also see the testimony of US PIRG/Consumers Union/Consumer Federation of America.
  • EPIC Files Brief in Drivers Privacy Case. The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed an amicus brief [PDF] in the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the 1994 Drivers Privacy Protection Act is a Constitutional exercise of Congressional authority. EPIC urged the high court to reverse a lower court opinion which held that the DPPA violated the Tenth Amendment.
  • FTC Tells Consumers "You're on your own." The Federal Trade Commission Report to Congress "Self-Regulation and Privacy Online" finds few commercial web sites observe basic fair information practices, but recommends no legislation at this time.
  • House Committee Amends and Approves SAFE Crypto Bill. On June 23, the House Commerce Committee approved the Security and Freedom Through Encryption (SAFE) bill, which would relax export controls on encryption, with several amendments. One of the amendments (PDF format) would make it a crime to fail to decrypt encrypted information when ordered to do so, raising serious privacy and constitutional concerns.
  • Senate Committee Okays Mandatory Filtering Bill. The Senate Commerce Committee approved the Children's Internet Protection Act (S.97) on June 23. The legislation would mandate that schools and libraries receiving "E-Rate" universal service funds purchase and use Internet filtering software to regulate access by minors. The House of Representatives added a similar provision to the juvenile justice bill on June 17. The Internet Free Expression Alliance sent a joint letter to the Senate committee urging rejection of mandatory filtering.
  • Proposed Database Merger Draws Fire. EPIC and other privacy advocates have sent an open letter to the CEOs of online advertising network Doubleclick and junk mail database company Abacus Direct, calling on them to abandon a proposed merger of the two companies.
  • Government Seeks Review of Crypto Decision. The Department of Justice filed a petition for rehearing on June 21 seeking to overturn the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal's opinion in the Bernstein case,which held that encryption source code is scientific expression protected by the First Amendment. Additional information, including the text of EPIC's amicus brief in the case, is available at the EPIC Crypto Policy Page.
  • Deadline Extended on FAA's Proposed Profiling Regulations. The Federal Aviation Administration has extended the public comment period for its proposed regulations governing "Security of Checked Baggage on Flights Within the United States." The draft rules detail the use of computer profiling techniques to identify suspicious passengers. Public comments can be filed until August 17, 1999 and may be submitted electronically.
  • EPIC Testifies Before Congress on Growing "Privacy Gap." In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on May 27, EPIC Director Marc Rotenberg said that the commercial use of personal data is outpacing the legal rights of Internet users. He recommends the development of baseline privacy standards.
  • Supreme Court Rules that Media "Ride-Alongs" Violate the Fourth Amendment. The Court's opinion in Wilson v. Layne says the Fourth Amendment gives police authority to execute a warrant, not to gather footage for evening news, but holds that police have qualified immunity given uncertainty in the law at the time the incident occurred. In other action, the Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether Congress can limit the disclosure of personal information held by state agencies. The federal appeals courts are split over the constitutionality of the Drivers Privacy Protection Act of 1994. The pending case is Reno v. Condon.
  • Senate to Consider Medical Privacy Legislation. The Senate is still debating medical privacy legislation. The National Coalition for Patient's Rights wants you to Send a Letter to Congress.
  • IFEA Urges FCC to Provide Balanced Info on Filtering. In response to a speech delivered by Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard in which he encouraged the use of Internet filters, more than a dozen organizations sent a letter to the Chairman on May 13 urging him to present balanced information on the pros and cons of filtering software at the Commission website.
  • Survey Finds Most Sites Still Lack Good Privacy Policies. An industry-funded survey released on May 12 indicates that nearly two-thirds of commercial Web sites display warnings that they collect personal information from visitors, such as names, postal and e-mail addresses and consumer preferences. Most significantly, less than 10 percent of the surveyed sites had comprehensive privacy policies that give users any meaningful control over their information. Two reports prepared by EPIC -- in Surfer Beware I (1997) and Surfer Beware II (1998) -- first documented the lack of effective user control.
  • Appeals Court Rules Crypto Controls Unconstitutional. In a long-awaited landmark decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that U.S. controls on the export of encryption software violate the First Amendment. EPIC participated in the case -- Bernstein v. Department of Justice -- as a friend-of-the-court and filed an amicus brief opposing the controls.
  • Electronic Surveillance Increased in 1998. According to a new report by the U.S. Courts, the number of State and Federal requests for wiretaps and bugs increased 12 percent in 1998, to a total of 1,329. Only two requests were denied. State taps were up 24 percent, while federal requests dropped slightly. Seventy-two percent of all orders were issued in drug cases.
  • White House Announces Financial Privacy Initiative. At a White House ceremony on May 4, President Clinton announced the Administration's "plan for financial privacy and consumer protection in the 21st century." See the President's remarks for the details of this initiative.
  • FCC Chairman Urges Increased Use of Internet Filters. In a speech delivered at a conference on families and the Internet on May 4, Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard said, "we need filtering software for families to use on their PC's." An Annenberg Center study released at the conference describes the attitudes of parents about their children's use of the Internet. For more information, visit the Internet Free Expression Alliance (IFEA).
  • U.S. and EU Consumer Groups Reject Safe Harbor. The recently established Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) has adopted a resolution in Brussels that calls on the European Commission to reject the U.S. "Safe Harbor" proposal. TACD recommended instead the establishment of an International Convention on Privacy Protection to address public concerns about transborder data flows. The leading consumer organizations from the United States and Europe said that the Safe Harbor proposal fails to provide adequate privacy protection for consumers.
  • FAA Proposes Rules for Passenger Profiling. The Federal Aviation Administration has published proposed regulations governing "Security of Checked Baggage on Flights Within the United States." The draft rules detail the use of computer profiling techniques to identify suspicious passengers. Public comments can be filed until June 18, 1999. See the EPIC Travel Privacy Page for the text of the proposal and background material.
  • FTC Issues Regs on Kids Privacy Act. The Federal Trade Commission has released draft regulations (PDF) implementing the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. See the Commission's press release and EPIC's 1996 Congressional testimony on the need for children's privacy legislation.
  • Encryption Export Bill Introduced in Senate. The PROTECT Act of 1999 (Promote Reliable On Line Transactions To Encourage Commerce and Trade) was introduced in the U.S. Senate on April 14. See the floor statements of the sponsors for details on the latest proposal to relax crypto export controls.
  • Government Files Appeal in Internet Censorship Case. The U.S. Department of Justice has decided to appeal a lower court decision enjoining enforcement of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). The case against COPA -- brought by EPIC, the ACLU and other organizations -- now moves to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. See the EPIC COPA Challenge Page for background information.
  • House Judiciary Committee Approves SAFE Crypto Bill. The House Judiciary Committee approved the Safety and Freedom through Encryption (SAFE) Act of 1999 on March 24. The legislation would relax U.S. export controls on encryption, but contains a controversial provision that creates a new federal crime for the use of encryption to conceal criminal conduct. The bill will next be considered by the International Relations Committee.
  • "Know Your Customer" Proposal Withdrawn. The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Office of Thrift Supervision announced on March 23 that they have withdrawn their proposed "Know Your Customer" rules. The controversial proposal to monitor bank accounts received over 200,000 comments opposing its adoption.
  • Groups Urge Court to Reject Crypto Controls. EPIC has coordinated the submission of a "friend-of-the-court" brief arguing that U.S. export controls on encryption violate the First Amendment. The brief, which was joined by a broad coalition of organizations and several noted security experts, supports the challenge of Prof. Peter Junger, whose case is now pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit..
  • Congress Urged to Examine Growth of Federal Databases. EPIC joined with a diverse coalition of organizations on February 17 in a letter to Congress requesting public hearings on the growth and misuse of federal databases. The groups say that "the proliferation of massive federal databases with virtually no safeguards amounts to a piecemeal erosion of the American people's privacy and undermines our civil liberties." The request was submitted on the eve of press disclosures that the U.S. Secret Service was involved in a plan to build a national database of driver's license photographs..
  • Library Commission Rejects Mandatory Filters. In a significant setback for proponents of mandatory Internet filtering in public libraries, the National Commission on Libraries & Information Science (NCLIS) has recommended the adoption of local library "acceptable use" policies rather than national filtering requirements. The NCLIS recommendations (PDF format) adopt many of the conclusions proposed by the Internet Free Expression Alliance in a joint submission to the Commission last December.
  • Federal Judge Blocks Internet Censorship Law. Judge Lowell Reed of the United States District Court in Philadelphia has entered a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), the statutory successor to the Communications Decency Act (CDA). EPIC joined with the ACLU and other plaintiffs in challenging the new censorship law. The full text of the decision and other documents are available at the EPIC COPA Challenge page.
  • Intel Privacy Boycott Extended. After meeting with Intel officials for two hours on January 28, the organizers of the boycott determined that the software patch announced by Intel on Monday is not sufficient to eliminate the privacy problems of the PSN. The organizers called on Intel to disable the PSN in their production of the Pentium III and to recall all existing Pentium III chips. The boycott will be extended to any PC manufacturer that ships a Pentium III system with the PSN included. See the Big Brother Inside page for more info.
  • Clinton Announces Infowar Initiative. President Clinton announced on January 22 a new initiative on fighting cyber attacks. The proposal includes $1.5 billion in new funding, new surveillance systems and secret groups, and a "CyberCorps" program. See the EPIC report on Critical Infrastructure Protection and the Endangerment of Civil Liberties for a reality check.
  • French Drop Crypto Restrictions. Prime Minister Lionel Jospin announced on January 19 that France was dropping its long held restrictions on the use of cryptography. Jospin announced that users will be able to use encryption of any strength and that requirements for key escrow were being dropped. See Jospin's announcement (in French).
  • New Crypto Regs Released. The Department of Commerce has published an interim proposal for export control that continues the archaic practice of licensing encryption products and limiting the availability of strong techniques to protect privacy and security. The Commerce proposal attempts to cap mass-market products at 56-bit, which could leave computer networks and personal communications vulnerable to attack. Comments are due March 1, 1999 [FR Doc. 98-34669].
  • Internet Censorship Goes on Trial. In the second challenge to a federal Internet censorship law, a three-day hearing will begin on January 20 in United States District Court in Philadelphia. At issue is the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), the statutory successor to the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which the Supreme Court struck down in June 1997. Check the EPIC COPA Trial page for more details.
  • Clipper 4.0 Regs Released. The Department of Commerce has published an interim proposal [PDF] for export control that continues the archaic practice of licensing encryption products and limiting the availability of strong techniques to protect privacy and security. The Commerce proposal attempts to cap mass-market products at 56-bit, which could leave computer networks and personal communications vulnerable to attack. Comments are due March 1, 1999 [FR Doc. 98-34669].