Release of the 2003 Privacy and Human Rights Report
Date: Friday, September 5, 1:00 pm EDT
Event: National Press Club, Washington
Key words: Privacy, Civil liberties, EPIC, Patriot Act
EPIC Releases Report on Global Privacy
Privacy Group Finds Public Opposition to Total Information Awareness, Biometric ID Cards
Will Pursue Lawsuit on Passenger Profiling
WASHINGTON, DC - The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and Privacy International will release today the sixth annual Privacy and Human Rights survey. The report is the most comprehensive survey on privacy and data protection ever published. The report will be released at the National Press Club in Washington, DC and simultaneously webcast on the Internet. This report reviews the state of privacy in over fifty-five countries around the world. Key topics include Total Information Awareness, the public response to the USA-Patriot Act, traveler profiling, biometric identification, and other new technologies of surveillance. According to the 2003 Privacy and Human Rights report, governments have enhanced their surveillance powers, affecting many fundamental human rights, including privacy. But public opposition is growing.
" The public in the United States and around the world is now voicing its opposition to the dramatic expansion of government surveillance that occurred after September 11," said EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg. "The resignation of John Poindexter, the suspension of the Total Information Awareness program, and campaigns against identity cards in Europe and East Asia make clear that citizens are not prepared to make privacy one of the casualties in the war on terrorism."
Under the banner of anti-terrorism, combined with a shifting international political climate, several governments are using new systems and methods of surveillance technologies, from biometrics and computerized national ID cards to DNA databases and face-recognition. Most prominent among these proposals is the United States' CAPPS II system, an airline passenger profiling system that uses passengers' personal information to detect potential security threats.
At the press conference, EPIC General Counsel David L. Sobel will discuss the lawsuit that the EPIC has filed this week against the Transportation Security Administration for information about the CAPPS II passenger profiling system. An earlier EPIC lawsuit revealed that many air travelers were wrongly detained by security officials. The new lawsuit seeks an emergency order requiring the immediate release of information about the privacy impact of the controversial profiling system. Biometrics has received increasing attention from governments and law enforcement agencies in the past year. Several nations are also developing new identification and authentication systems, such as smart cards and digital identification cards. Japan launched a computerized national ID system that compiles the personal data of residents into a centralized national database that can be accessed by the government. Other countries, including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Russia, Singapore, and Spain, are establishing similar systems.
But while nations have taken advantage of the unstable international environment to promote privacy-endangering policies and more expansive police powers, individuals and advocacy groups have made headway in opposing many of these efforts. In the United States, public outcry over the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness program led to a curb in its funding and the eventual resignation of the program's chief, retired admiral John Poindexter. In Taiwan, a coalition successfully fought against a next-generation national ID system. In Canada, advocacy efforts led to a modification of a government data-gathering scheme on travelers entering the country. Several new issues are also reported in the survey as raising serious threats to privacy: radio frequency identification tags, smart video surveillance technologies, and the abuse of genetic and medical data. Many countries data protection authorities have reacted by issuing reports on the ethical, legal and social implications of those technologies for citizens' civil liberties and privacy rights.
The WHOIS database is another problem threatening privacy. Originally intended to allow network administrators to find and fix problems with minimal hassle to maintain the stability of the Internet, it now exposes the personally identifiable information of domain name registrants' to spammers, stalkers, criminal
investigators, and copyright enforcers. The United States Congress is considering WHOIS at a hearing this week in Washington but is avoiding the privacy consequences of the Internet-based directory. "The 2003 Privacy and Human Rights report is the most complete global privacy survey ever published. We relied this year on the expertise of more than a hundred experts, from the government, academia and human rights groups," said Cédric Laurant, EPIC Policy Counsel and assistant editor of this year's survey.
Deborah Hurley, former director of the Harvard University Information Infrastructure Project and author of a forthcoming report on human rights and the information society, will also be speaking at the EPIC Washington press conference. Ms. Hurley said, "Privacy is one of the critical policy issues facing governments today. The 2003 Privacy and Human Rights survey will be an enormously important resource for policymakers, experts, and advocates."
Privacy and Human Rights 2003: An International Survey of Privacy Laws and Developments is available for sale at the EPIC Bookstore at
http://www.epic.org/bookstore/phr2003/ and (in HTML) at
The event will be webcast live in audio-only format. The webcast will be archived and available for one year following the event. To access the webcast, go to the EPIC homepage (http://www.epic.org) and follow the link from there, or go directly to http://www.ConnectLive.com/events/epic.
EPIC is a public interest research center in Washington, DC. EPIC maintains a comprehensive web site on privacy and civil liberties issues at http://www.epic.org.
Privacy International is a human rights group formed in 1990 to monitor surveillance by government and corporations. PI is based in London, England and has an office in Washington, DC. More information is available at http://www.privacyinternational.org.