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EPIC Alert 1.01 [1994] EPICAlert 1


Volume 1.01 May 18, 1994

Published by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Washington, DC (

Table of Contents

[1] Federal Electronic Surveillance Increased in 1993
[2] Credit Reporting Amendments Pass Senate
[3] ALCU Survey Finds Strong Support for Privacy
[4] DMV Privacy Bill Passes House
[5] NII Working Group Requests Comments on Privacy Principles
[6] NTIA Requests Comments on NII Privacy
[7] New Files at the Internet Library
[8] Upcoming Conferences and Events

[1] Federal Electronic Surveillance Increased in 1993

Fueled by an increased use of electronic surveillance by federalofficials in drug cases, the number of wiretaps and microphonesinstalled by federal, state and local law enforcement officialsincreased by six percent in 1993 over the previous year. There werealso substantial increases in the total number of days in operation,
extensions granted and in the cost of each order. However, theefficiency of wiretaps continues to decline as the percentage ofrelevant communications intercepted has dipped below 20 percent forfederal investigations
Federal and state courts approved a total of 979 requests, thehighest number since electronic surveillance was legalized in 1968.
Federal orders increased by 33 percent from 1992, while stateinvestigations decreased by nine percent. No surveillance requestswere rejected or amended. In 25 years, only 27 requests have ever beenrejected, two most recently in 1988.

Narcotics Main Offense Cited
The vast majority of cases investigated involved narcotics.
Seventy-four percent of the federal investigations and 69 percent ofall investigations were for narcotics related offenses. These figurescontinue long-standing trends. Use of electronic surveillance innarcotics cases has increased 240 percent since 1980 and over 500percent since the legalization of electronic surveillance in 1968. Useof the technique in investigations of other offenses has decreased orremained at similar levels.

Federal Use Increases
Federal investigations accounted for nearly half of all requests forelectronic surveillance in 1993. Federal judges approved 450 requests,
a 30 percent increase in requests over 1992. The 450 requests approvedby federal judges represent a 30 percent increase over the previousyear. Federal use of electronic surveillance has increased nearly 450%
since 1980. Fifty-one federal judicial districts utilized electronicsurveillance in 1993. The Southern District of New York, whichincludes New York City, and the Eastern District of Michigan, whichincludes Detroit were the areas with the highest number of orders.

State Use of Electronic Surveillance Declines
State use of electronic surveillance declined by nine percent from1992. State use was at its peak in 1973, when 734 orders wereapproved. Since the mid-1970s, the average number of state orders hasfluctuated between 450 and 550 per year.

In 1993, only 23 states used electronic surveillance. New York hadthe highest number of orders - 204. New York, New Jersey andPennsylvania accounted for 73 percent of the state surveillanceorders.

Efficiency Declines
As the use of electronic surveillance has increased, its efficiencyas a law enforcement tool has substantially declined. The majority ofconversations overhead are determined by prosecutors to be irrelevantto any investigation. In 1993, prosecutors determined that only 20percent of all conversations were relevant. For federalinvestigations, only 17 percent were relevant. These percentages havedecreased significantly since the 1970s when prosecutors reportedthat, on average, over half of all conversations were relevant to aninvestigation.

[2] Credit Reporting Amendments Pass Senate

The long awaited amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act wereapproved by the Senate 87-10 on May 4. The bill (S. 783), may lead tothe first update to the FCRA since its passage in 1970. Thelegislation was sponsored by Sens. Richard Bryan (D-NV), Don Riegle(D-MI) Kit Bond (R-MO) and Harris Wofford (D-PA).

The bill preempts state statutes for six years in several areasincluding obsolete information, prescreening of consumer reports,
duties of persons who take adverse actions based on consumer reportsand intra-company transfer of credit information. After 6 years, thestates may pass laws that explicitly state that they supplement theFederal act.

The bill allows consumers to opt-out of having their informationdistributed for use in offering unsolicited credit cards("prescreening") and some direct marketing uses. Credit agencies areprohibited from providing adverse information over 10 years old.
Secondary users of credit services cannot obtain credit reports forresale without informing the agency of the final users of theinformation and the permitted uses of the information.

An attempt by Senator Paul Simon(D-IL)to amend the bill to includelanguage creating a privacy commission gathered 21 votes. ManySenators were reluctant to sign on because of fears that other, "lessfriendly," amendments would then be approved, weakening the FCRAamendments.

Consumer advocates are pressing the House of Representative to fix thedeficiencies in the Senate bill. The House bill is currently incommittee.

[3] ACLU Survey Finds Strong Support for Privacy

An extensive survey by the American Civil Liberties Union has foundstrong support for privacy, even in highly controversial areas such asabortion and homosexuality. The report, "Live and Let Live: AmericanPublic Opinion About Privacy at Home and at Work," is based on over1,000 interviews conducted by Albert and Susan Cantril, twoprofessional public opinion surveyers.

The survey found that eighty percent of Americans believe theiremployers should not be able to monitor their telephone calls and a"solid majority" believe that employers have no right to ask about thepersonal lives of job applicants.

Following several other recent polls, large majorities of the publicare concerned about how insurance, financial and other companies usesensitive personal information held in their databases.

For more information, contact: Loren Siegal at 212-944-9800, 132 West43rd Street, New York, NY 10036.

[4] DMV Privacy Bill Passes House

A bill introduced by Congressman James Moran (D-VA) to provide someprotection for Department of Motor Vehicle records passed the House ofRepresentative as an amendment to the House crime bill in March.

The bill allows drivers to request that DMVs not disclose theirdriving information to direct marketers and, under certaincircumstances, to prevent disclosure of licence information to anyone.

The bill has many exceptions, however, allowing for unlimited accessby law enforcement, government agencies, private detectives andothers. Accident records and some other indvidual driver informationwould still be available publicly. States would also be authorized torelease information to "multi-purpose" users, but the state would berequired to inform the users of the names of those people who hadasked to have their information withheld.

A Senate version, which provides greater protection, passed earlierthis year. The two versions will be reconciled in a conferencecommittee within the next month.

[5] NII Working Group Requests Comments on Privacy Principles

The Privacy Working Group of the Information Infrastructure Task Forcehas proposed a draft privacy code for the National InformationInfrastructure. Comments on the proposal are due to the PrivacyWorking Group by June 23, 1994. The IITF Gopher/Bulletin Board can beaccessed at Electronic comments should be sent
EPIC's assessment of the proposed code is that it is weaker thancurrent privacy codes and leaves large gaps in NII privacy policy insuch areas as encryption, informed consent, unique identifiers andenforcement. The proposed code may also be inadequate for the purposeof protecting international data flows.

EPIC has prepared an extensive report on the proposed code. For anelectronic copy of "EPIC Report 94-1: Privacy Guidelines for theNational Information Infrastructure A Review of the ProposedPrinciples of the Privacy Working Group" send email to

[6] NTIA Requests Comments on NII Privacy

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)
is undertaking a review of privacy issues relating to private sectoruse of the National Information Infrastructure (NII) and hasrequested public comment.

The inquiry will focus on potential uses of personal informationgenerated by electronic communications, including interactivemultimedia, cable television and telephony. NTIA is studying theissues that arise when such telecommunications related information isused to create detailed dossiers about individuals. NTIA seeks todetermine whether any overarching privacy principles can be developedthat would apply to all firms in the telecommunications sector. Inaddition, NTIA is soliciting comment on other countries' actions toensure the privacy of information transmitted over telecommunicationsnetworks, and to ascertain how any U.S. policies in this area willaffect the international arena.

Comments are due May 23 and should be sent to the Office of PolicyAnalysis and Development, NTIA, U.S. Department of Commerce, 14th St.
and Constitution Ave., N.W., Room 4725, Washington, D.C. 20230 or byemail The notice is available from the NTIAbulletin board at 202-482-1199. For further information about the NTIAbulletin board call 202-482-6207.

EPIC recommends that comments focus on these points:

- Strong, enforceable code of fair information practices - Protection of Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI)
- Development of technologies for pseudo-anonymous transactions - Use of cryptography in communications networks - Establishment of a federal privacy agency - Failure of self-regulatory mechanisms - Support for strong international privacy safeguards

[7] Files Available for retrieval

The following EPIC files are available from /cpsr/privacy/

EPIC Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) - /epic/epic_faq.txt
EPIC Program Description -/epic/program.txt
FCC Caller ID Decision /communications/caller_id/
The CPSR Internet Library is a free service available viaFTP/WAIS/Gopher/listserv from Materials fromPrivacy International, the Taxpayers Assets Project and theCypherpunks are also archived. For more information,

[8] Upcoming Conferences and Events

"Navigating the Networks." 1994 Mid-Year Meeting, American Society forInformation Science. Portland, Oregon. May 22 - 25, 1994. Contact:
"Information: Society, Superhighway or Gridlock?" Computing for theSocial Sciences 1994 Conference (CSS94). University of Maryland atCollege Park. June 1-3, 1994. Contact: Dr. Charles Wellford301-405-4699, fax 301-405-4733, e-mail:

Medical Information and the Right to Privacy. Department of Energy,
Institute of Medicine, National Research Council. National Academy
of Science, Washington, DC. June 9-10. Contact Harry J. Pettengill,
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, DOE, 301-903-1010 (tel),

Integrating Data Protection Law into Good Business Practice. Privacy
Laws and Business 7th Annual Conference. St. John's College,
Cambridge, England. July 11-13, 1994. Contact Stewart Dresner, 44
081 423 1300 (tel), 44 081 423 4536 (fax).

DEF CON ][ ("underground" computer culture) "Load up your laptopmuffy, we're heading to Vegas!" The Sahara Hotel, Las Vegas, NV. July22-24, Contact:

Symposium on Privacy and Intelligent Vehicle-Highway Systems. SantaClara University. Santa Clara, California. July 29-30. Contact:
Professor Dorothy J. Glancy 408-554-4075 (tel), 408-554-4426 (fax),

Hackers on Planet Earth: The First US Hacker Congress. HotelPennsylvania, New York City, NY. August 13-14. Sponsored by 2600Magazine, Contact:

Technologies of Surveillance; Technologies of Privacy. The Hague, TheNetherlands, September 5. Sponsored by Privacy International and EPIC.
Contact: Simon Davies (

16th International Conference on Data Protection. The Hague,
Netherlands. September 6-8. Contact B. Crouwers 31 70 3190190 (tel),
31-70-3940460 (fax).

Symposium: An Arts and Humanities Policy for the National InformationInfrastructure. Boston, Mass. October 14-16, 1994. Sponsored by theCenter for Art Research in Boston. Contact: Jay Jaroslav(

Third Biannual Conference on Participatory Design, Chapel Hill, NorthCarolina, October 27-28, 1994. Sponsored by CPSR. Contact: Submissions due April 15, 1994.

Ethics in the Computer Age Conference, November 11-13, 1994,
Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Sponsored by ACM. Contact:
(Send calendar submissions to

To subscribe to the EPIC Alert, send the message:

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to You may also receive the Alert by reading theUSENET newsgroup

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is a public interestresearch center in Washington, DC. It was established in 1994 tofocus public attention on emerging privacy issues relating to theNational Information Infrastructure, such as the Clipper Chip, theDigital Telephony proposal, medical record privacy, and the sale ofconsumer data. EPIC is sponsored by the Fund for ConstitutionalGovernment and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility. EPICpublishes the EPIC Alert and EPIC Reports, pursues Freedom ofInformation Act litigation, and conducts policy research on emergingprivacy issues. For more information email, or writeEPIC, 666 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 301, Washington, DC 20003.
+1 202 544 9240 (tel), +1 202 547 5482 (fax).

The Fund for Constitutional Government is a non-profit organizationestablished in 1974 to protect civil liberties and constitutionalrights. Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility is a nationalmembership organization. For information contact:
END EPIC Alert 1.01

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