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EPIC Alert 2.15 [1995] EPICAlert 15


Volume 2.15 November 22, 1995

Published by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Washington, D.C.

Table of Contents

[1] Senate Holds Hearings on Medical Privacy
[2] EPIC Calls for Rescission of FBI Wiretap Notice

[3] NY Times Opposes Wiretap Plan
[4] Conservative Groups Split Over On-line Indecency Issue
[5] Avrahami Pursues Mailing List Claim
[6] New Coalition Calls for Examination of Copyright "White Paper"

[7] International Privacy Newsletters
[8] Upcoming Conferences and Events

[1] Senate Holds Hearings on Medical Privacy

On Tuesday, November 14, the Senate Committee on Labor and HumanResources held a hearing on the controversial Medical Record
Confidentiality Act (S. 1360). The committee heard from the sponsors,
several industry groups, an AIDS advocacy group supporting the bill
and a patients rights group opposing the bill.

The hearing was contentious and most witnesses and Senators inattendance agreed that substantial changes in the bill were necessary.
Dr. Denise Nagel, a practicing psychiatrist and the President of theCoalition for Patient Rights of New England testified that the billwould "codify some of the most egregious breaches of ethics, morals
and the Hippocratic oath that this country has ever seen." Dr. Nagel
pointed to weaknesses in the consent provision: "Senate Bill 1360 notonly permits some types of such extremely objectionable disclosures tothird parties without notification or consent, but its procedures willmislead patients in this respect. The patient not only will beunaware of this further dispersion of his personally-identifiedinformation, but will be cruelly tricked by the initial assurance thatthe disclosure will be solely for treatment and payment."

The Consumer Project on Technology (CPT) submitted a detailedstatement to the Committee with comments on how to improve the bill.
CPT Director James Love described the bill as "fundamentally flawed"
and said it would "legitimize and contribute to the continued erosion ofpersonal privacy." Evan Hendricks, chairman of the U.S. Privacy Council,
wrote that "the current proposal will do more harm than good by
legitimizing a large database surveillance system while leaving
Americans without sufficient choices or remedies to retain asatisfactory level of privacy."

Despite early predictions that the bill would be adopted by the Senatebefore Thanksgiving, quick action now appears unlikely. It is expectedthat the Senate will take up the bill again after the Christmas break.

More information about medical privacy, including the testimonyof Dr. Nagel and the text of S. 1360, is available at:

[2] EPIC Calls for Rescission of FBI Wiretap Notice

As reported in EPIC Alert 2.12, the FBI is proposing that thenation's telephone network be made capable of permitting thesimultaneous surveillance of up to one percent of the system's"engineered capacity" by the end of 1998. In the wake of substantialpublic controversy, EPIC has called for the rescission of the FBI'sproposal and Congressional hearings on the issue.

In formal comments submitted in response to the Bureau's October 16Federal Register notice, EPIC argues that 1) the notice fails tocomply with the notification and public accountability provisions ofthe Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act; and 2) theBureau's proposed capacity requirements are not supported by adequatedocumentation. For these reasons, EPIC urges the FBI to rescind theinitial notice and issue revised capacity requirements that comportwith the statute's mandate. EPIC notes that the FBI notice has"already engendered a great deal of public confusion concerning theBureau's proposed requirements and their impact on the privacy ofpersonal communications," and calls for the release of the followinginformation:

* the actual number of communication interceptions, pen registers,
and trap and trace devices that the Bureau estimates will be
needed by the end of 1998;

* the actual number of communication interceptions, pen registers,
and trap and trace devices conducted during the past five years
(as opposed to the number of court orders as reported by the
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts);

* the highest number of "simultaneous pen register, trap and trace,
and communication interceptions" conducted on the "equipment,
facilities, or services" of a telecommunications carrier for each of the past five years; and
* data concerning the "historical baseline of electronic
surveillance activity" and the Bureau's analysis of that data,
as referenced in the Federal Register notice.

In a letter sent to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde onNovember 9, EPIC called for Congressional hearings on the Bureau'sproposed wiretapping requirements, citing "the apparent confusionconcerning the FBI's intentions with regard to implementation of theCommunications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act." The text ofEPIC's formal comments and letter to Rep. Hyde can be found at:
NOTE: The FBI has extended the comment period on its wiretap proposal
until January 16, 1996. Please check the above-listed URL for
information on submitting comments.

[3] NY Times Opposes Wiretap Plan

In an editorial on Saturday, November 18, the New York Times alsocriticized the FBIÕs proposed wiretap plan ("The F.B.I.'s WiretapRequest"). The Times described the recent capacity request set out in
the Federal Register on October 16 as "an indefensible bid for vast
new wiretapping capability."

"Governments always crave more eavesdropping power, but that appetitemust be curbed." The editorial continued, "The new estimate of need isscantily supported and raises fears that the FBI may be poised for amajor expansion of eavesdropping that could invade the privacy rightsof citizens far beyond any legitimate crime control requirements."

In response to a common claim made by the Bureau that the judiciarywould stand as a bulwark against excessive surveillance, the editorialconcluded, "The mere existence of increased capacity will be aninvitation to expand wiretapping. If law enforcement needs change inthe future, the F.B.I. can try to make the case then for addedwiretapping power, always under the strict control of courts andlegislatures. But there is no justification for widening theopportunities to conduct electronic spying."

[4] Conservative Groups Split Over On-line Indecency Issue

As a Congressional conference committee continues consideration oftelecommunications reform legislation, prominent conservatives aredivided over the inclusion of provisions that would criminalize thedissemination of "indecent" material on the Internet. A letter sentto the conference committee by former Attorney General Edwin Meese,
Ralph Reed (Christian Coalition), Donald Wildmon (American FamilyAssociation), Phyllis Schlafly (Eagle Forum) and other conservativeactivists urges the adoption of the "strongest possible criminal lawprovisions" to regulate on-line content. A second letter, signed byrepresentatives of the Progress and Freedom Foundation, the HeritageFoundation, the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute,
opposes any federal content regulation and cites the chilling effecton free expression that would result from enactment of the so-calledExon Amendment.

Links to sources of up-to-date information on the telecommunicationsbill, generally, and the indecency provisions, specifically, can befound at:

[5] Avrahami Pursues Mailing List Claim

On November 13, 1995, the attorney for Ram Avrahami filed motions
opposing an attempt by U.S. News & World Report to block his suit formisuse of his name without consent.

Avrahami said that he was not surprised that the magazine was tryingprevent from pursuing his claim, but that he was disappointed thatthere was no substantive arguments for trying to do so. He added thathe hoped that at the trial, there will be a real discussion on themerits of the case. The trial date is for November 27.

Additional information about the Avrahami case is available at:

[6] New Coalition Calls for Examination of Copyright "White Paper"

A new coalition of information consumers, creators and distributorswrote to Congress on November 9 to urge a reevaluation of the
Information Infrastructure Task Force's "white paper" on copyright
protection. The White Paper has been introduced in both the House and
the Senate as the Information Infrastructure Copyright Act (S. 1284
and H.R. 2441).The Digital Future Coalition is calling for caution in
enacting the task force proposals into law.

The Coalition letter stated that enacting the white paper into law
could "impede realization of their goals for a shared digital future:
innovation in the information and technology industries, personal
privacy in electronic communication, and public access to information
resources, as well as appropriate protection for copyrighted
content." The Coalition noted that the legal regime envisioned in
the White Paper, and reflected in S. 1284 and H.R. 2441, could
"invite invasion of the privacy of digital information users
(including students and library patrons)."

The Digital Future Coalition includes public interest groups, librarygroups, industry associations and educators and represents over 2.2
million consumers, businesses and organizations. The Coalition is
planning to issue several papers on copyright before Congressional
hearings in January.

The DFC letter to Congress is posted at:
More information about the Digital Futures Coalition is at:

[7] International Privacy Newsletters

Several publications provide an international perspective on privacy

Privacy Law and Policy Reporter. A comprehensive, law-oriented
overview of privacy developments in NZ and Australia. Recent coverage
includes the EU Data Directive. 10 issues/year. Level 11, Carlton
Centre, 55-63 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia.
61-2-221-6199 (tel) 61-2-221-5923 (fax). Cost: $AZ 365. General Editor: Graham Greenleaf
Transnational Data and Communications Report. Bimonthly overview of privacy, data protection, telecommunications and information access.
P.O. Box 10528, Burke VA 22009-0528. Cost: $280/year. Editor:
Russell Pipe.

Privacy Laws and Business. A quarterly overview of privacy issues in
Europe. Focuses on regulatory and data protection from a business
perspective. Country-specific reports and special services available.
3 Central Avenue, Pinner, Middlesex HA5 5BT United Kindgom.
44-81-866-8641(tel). Cost: $UK 240/year. Editor: Stewart Dresner.

International Privacy Bulletin. Published quarterly by Privacy
International. The IPB covers international trends and new
technologies. Each issue also includes reports from different
countries and reviews of new publications. 666 Pennsylvania Ave, SE
#301, Washington, DC 20003. +1 202 544-9240 (tel) +1 202 547 5482
(fax). Cost: $75/year individuals, $125/year Libraries/Govt.
Agencies, $200/year Commerical organizations. Editor: David Banisar.

For a comprehensive guide to privacy resources, check out:

[8] Upcoming Privacy Related Conferences and Events

IN THE NEWS THIS WEEK: Denise Nagel of the Coalition for PatientRights discusses problems with the Bennett medical privacy bill on NPR
Consumer Rights with Direct Marketing On and Off the Internet: DoesJunk (e-)Mail Really Byte? November 21. Sponsored by Institute for
Computer and Telecommunications Systems Policy. Washington, DC.

11th Annual Computer Security Applications Conference: Technicalpapers, panels, vendor presentations, and tutorials that address theapplication of computer security and safety technologies in the civil,
defense, and commercial environments. December 11-15, 1995, New Orleans,
Louisiana. Contact Vince Reed at (205) 890-3323 or

RSA 6th Annual Data Security Conference: Cryptography Summit.
Focus on the commercial applications of modern cryptographic technology,
with an emphasis on Public Key Cryptosystems. January 17-19, 1996.
Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco. Contact Layne Kaplan Events, at (415)
340-9300, email at, or register at

The Gathering: The Computer Security Conference with a Difference.
February 13-15, 1996. University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Speakers include Fred Cohen, Chris Goggans, Bruce Schneier, WinnSchwartau, Robert Ellis Smith, and Philip Zimmermann.

Computers Freedom and Privacy '96. March 27-30, 1996. Cambridge, Mass.
Sponsored by MIT, ACM and WWW Consortium. Contact or

Conference on Technological Assaults on Privacy, April 18-20, 1996.
Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York. Papers should
be submitted by February 1, 1996. Contact Wade Robison,
by FAX at (716) 475-7120, or by phone at (716) 475-6643.

Australasian Conference on Information Security and Privacy June24-26, 1996. New South Wales, Australia. Sponsored by AustralasianSociety for Electronic Security and University of Wollongong. Contact:
Jennifer Seberry (

Visions of Privacy for the 21st Century: A Search for Solutions. May9-11, 1996. Victoria, British Columbia. Sponsored by The Office ofInformation and Privacy Commissioner for the Province of BritishColumbia and the University of Victoria. Program at
The Privacy Laws & Business 9th Annual Conference. July 1-3, 1996. St.
JohnÕs College, Cambridge, England. Contact: Ms. Gill Ehrlich +44 181423 1300 (tel), +44 181 423 4536 (fax).

18th International Conference of Data Protection and PrivacyCommissioners. Sponsored by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
September 18-20, 1996. Ottawa, Canada.

Advanced Surveillance Technologies II. Sponsored by EPIC and PrivacyInternational. September 17, 1996. Ottawa, Canada.
International Colloquium on the Protection of Privacy and PersonalInformation. Commission d'acces a l'information du Quebec. May 1997.
Quebec City, Canada.

(Send calendar submissions to

The EPIC Alert is a free biweekly publication of the ElectronicPrivacy Information Center. To subscribe, send the message:

to You may also receive the Alert by reading theUSENET newsgroup

Back issues are available via orFTP/WAIS/Gopher/HTTP from /cpsr/alert/ and on Compuserve (GoNCSA), Library 2 (EPIC/Ethics).

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, a non-profit organization established in 1974 to protect
civil liberties and constitutional rights. EPIC publishes the EPIC
Alert, pursues Freedom of Information Act litigation, and conducts
policy research. For more information, email, WWW atHTTP:// or write EPIC, 666 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite
301, Washington, DC 20003. +1 202 544 9240 (tel), +1 202 547 5482 (fax).

If you'd like to support the work of the Electronic Privacy InformationCenter, contributions are welcome and fully tax-deductible. Checks
should be made out to "The Fund for Constitutional Government" and sent
to EPIC, 666 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 301, Washington DC 20003.

Your contributions will help support Freedom of Information Actlitigation, strong and effective advocacy for the right of privacy andefforts to oppose government regulation of encryption and funding ofthe National Wiretap Plan.

Thank you for your support.

END EPIC Alert 2.15

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