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EPIC Alert 3.16 [1996] EPICAlert 16


Volume 3.16 September 12, 1996

Published by the

Electronic Privacy Information Center

Washington, D.C.

Table of Contents

[1] White House Proposes Screening of all Airline Passengers

[2] EPIC Testifies on Children's Privacy Bill

[3] House Panel Probes White House Database

[4] Crypto Update

[5] Anonymous Remailer Shuts Down

[6] EPIC Now Accepts First Virtual Contributionst

[7] EPIC/PI to Sponsor Conference on Surveillance Technologies

[8] Upcoming Conferences and Events

[1] White House Proposes Screening of all Airline Passengers

In the wake of perceived terrorist threats and the mysterious crash ofTWA Flight 800 in July, a Presidential advisory panel has proposed anautomated system for increased screening and "profiling" of airlinepassengers for all domestic and international flights. In its interimreport sent to President Clinton on September 9, the White HouseCommission on Aviation Safety and Security provided few specifics, butnoted that "[b]ased on information that is already in computerdatabases, passengers could be separated into a very large majoritywho present little or no risk, and a small minority who meritadditional attention."

Details of the profiling system will presumably be withheld from thepublic on national security grounds -- a substantial portion of theCommission's "public" meeting on September 5 was closed to permit thediscussion of "classified" matters. Nonetheless, the proposed systemappears to raise substantial privacy issues. The Washington Postrecently reported that under the proposal, "the federal governmentwould require creation of a computer profiling system that wouldexamine passengers' bill-paying records, flying habits and much otherdata to determine which checked baggage should undergo examination bysophisticated explosives detection equipment." The Commission'sinitial report also calls for FBI and CIA involvement in thedevelopment of the profiling database.

The theory underlying the profiling proposal appears to be that evenseemingly innocuous bits of personal data can raise the suspicions ofa law enforcement agency. This point is illustrated by the commentsof an unidentified FBI agent recently quoted in a New York Timesarticle. Discussing the Bureau's investigation of the bombing of PanAm Flight 103 over Scotland, the agent noted that, "Almost everyone onthe plane, almost everyone you ever met, has something that can getyour imagination going. A recent fight, a divorce, a business deal,
an overseas connection -- when you don't know what you're looking for,
it's easy to see all kinds of possibilities."

EPIC plans to monitor the development of the automated passengerprofiling system under the public oversight provisions of the FederalAdvisory Committee Act, which governs the proceedings of the WhiteHouse Commission.

More information, including relevant government documents, isavailable at:

[2] EPIC Testifies on Children's Privacy Bill

EPIC Director Marc Rotenberg testified today before the HouseJudiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime in support of the ChildrensPrivacy Protection and Parental Empowerment Act of 1996. The billwould establish basic privacy standards for organizations that collectpersonal information on children and curb recent abuses in themarketing industry. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bob Franks (R-NJ)
and has 46 cosponsors in the House of Representatives. A similarmeasure has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Dianne Feinstein(D-CA).

Rotenberg said that "current practices pose a substantial threat tothe privacy and safety of young people." He described a recentincident where a reporter posing as the murderer of Polly Klaas wasable to obtain the ages and address of young children living in thePasadena area. Rotenberg also cited editorials from USA Today and theEconomist favoring privacy legislation as well as public opinion pollswhich show that 9 out of 10 Americans object to the sale of personaldata where explicit consent is not obtained.

Recalling the passage of the Family Educational Right to Privacy Actof 1974, which protects the privacy of student records, Rotenberg saidthere was already Congressional recognition of the need to protectpersonal information about young children. "No universities have beenshut down because of the Act, but the privacy of children'seducational records is more secure because Congress did not fail toact when it had the opportunity to establish privacy protection foryoung people." Also testifying in support of the bill were Rep. BobFranks, children rights advocate Marc Klaas, and Miriam Bell of Enoughis Enough. Marc Klaas also heads the Klaas Foundation for Childrenwhich launched the Kids Off Lists campaign.

Testifying against the bill were representatives from the DirectMarketing Association, a list broker, a book publisher, and a policeofficer from San Bernardino.

More information on the Childrens Privacy bill and kids privacy may befound at:

The Klaas Foundation for Children is on the web at:

[3] House Panel Probes White House Database

The General Accounting Office revealed at a hearing of a subcommitteeof the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight on September11 that the secret White House database of 200,000 people hasinadequate controls on access. The GAO reported that the database,
the existence of which was revealed during the Filegate controversy,
does not keep track of what files have been viewed by the 150 WhiteHouse staffers who are authorized to access the files.

The database contains 125 different fields of information for eachfile. Several thousand files included ethnic and politicalinformation. The GAO did not reveal in its testimony what wascontained in the other fields. According to news reports, the databasewas designed to link into other related databases, including theSecret Service and the Democratic National Committee.

The White House claims that the database is used for a number ofreasons, including invitation lists for White House events, trackingcorrespondence, sending out Christmas cards and other matters.
Congressional Republicans claim that it is more akin to the Nixon"enemies list."

The database was created by PRC Inc., a company that also createsdatabases for the CIA and other intelligence agencies, among othergovernment agencies.

[4] Crypto Update

As the election approaches and Congress scrambles to complete itsagenda before recessing for the year, members are continuing to dealwith cryptography-related issues.

The Senate Commerce Committee delayed its scheduled vote on S. 1735,
the Promotion of Commerce Online in the Digital Era, originallyplanned for September 12. The Committee is expected to take up themeasure next week. Members of the Committee have reported receiving alarge number of calls supporting the bill. Individuals interested insupporting the bill should continue calling members of the Committee.

The House is planning to hold hearings at the end of September toexamine the companion House bill. The hearings were originallyscheduled for September 11 but were delayed due to other legislativematters.

The White House is also expected to introduce its own legislation nextweek. According to reporter Brock Meeks, the legislation will offer"sweetheart deals" to limited segments of the industry includingfinancial, health care and insurance sectors who would then agree tosupport government key escrow systems. The systems would then becomede facto mandatory.

Internationally, an expert committee of the Organization for EconomicCooperation and Development is meeting on September 26-27 to reviewdraft guidelines on cryptography policy. The US has been pressuringthe OECD to adopt its key escrow proposals as an internationalstandard but has been opposed by other countries and businessrepresentatives.

EPIC will be hosting an international symposium in Paris on September25, in cooperation with the OECD, to provide an opportunity forcryptographers, human rights advocates, privacy experts and userassociations to present public concerns about the development ofinternational privacy guidelines. The event will feature speakers frommore than a dozen countries and includes US cryptographers Matt Blaze,
Whit Diffie, and Phil Zimmermann.

On September 20, oral arguments will be heard in DanielBernstein's challenge to the constitutionality of export controls infederal court in San Francisco. Bernstein is arguing that the controlsviolate the First Amendment. Judge Marilyn Patel ruled preliminarilyin May that software code is speech protected by the First Amendment
More information on cryptography is available from:

[5] Anonymous Remailer Shuts Down

Johann Helsingius, the operator of the anonymous e-mailservice has decided to shut down his remailer service because of theunknown legal protections of privacy on the Internet. He had comereceived requests by the Church of Scientology and the Singaporegovernment demanding to know the identity of some of his users.

In a press release, he said that he hoped to bring the server back uponce the Finnish government enacted new laws protecting privacy ofelectronic messages, "I will close down the remailer for the timebeing because the legal issues governing the Internet in Finland areyet undefined. The legal protection of the users needs to beclarified. At the moment the privacy of Internet messages isjudicially unclear."

A list of remailers and other tools to protect privacy are availablefrom:

[6] EPIC Now Accepts First Virtual Contributionst

Individuals interested in donating or purchasing books from EPIC cannow use the First Virtual system to transfer money to EPIC. Until theend of 1996, donations of up to $50 will be matched by the SternFoundation. Your support is appreciated and will help make possibleour continued FOIA litigation, privacy advocacy, and web sitedevelopment.

More information about supporting EPIC is available at:

[7] EPIC/PI to Sponsor Conference on Surveillance Technologies

The new generation of covert surveillance activities of governmentagencies and private companies will be examined at a conference to beheld in Ottawa next week, sponsored by EPIC and Privacy International.

The conference will explore the process of planning and implementationof the technologies, their operating conditions, and the people andorganizations responsible for instituting them. The conference willalso examine possible technical, regulatory and legal responses.

A number of former government agents, intelligence experts andsurveillance analysts will gather at the Advanced SurveillanceTechnologies II conference on September 16th to discuss the use ofpowerful new technologies being used to gather information.

Speakers will include Mike Frost, a former intelligence officer forthe Canadian Communications Security Establishment and author of thebestseller "Spyworld." He will discuss the surveillance technologiesused by the CSE and its American counterpart, the National SecurityAgency.

The Conference will take place at the Citadel Hotel in Ottawa, Canada.
More information is available on the conference from the PrivacyInternational Web Page at:

[8] Upcoming Conferences and Events

"Advanced Surveillance Technologies II." September 16, 1996. Ottawa,
Canada. Sponsored by EPIC and Privacy International. Contact: or email

"Privacy Beyond Borders", 18th International Privacy and DataProtection Conference. September 18-20, 1996. Ottawa, Canada.
Sponsored by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Contact: or

"Regulation or Private Ordering? The Future of the Internet."
September 20, 1996. Washington, DC. Sponsored by the CATO Institute.
Contact: R. Scott Wallis, (202) 789-5296.

"The Public Voice and the Development of International CryptographyPolicy." September 25, 1996. Paris, France. Sponsored by EPIC.

"The 2nd International Conference & Exhibit on Doing Business Securelyon the Information Highway." September 30 - October 1, 1996. Montreal,
Quebec, Canada. Contact: menu.html.

"Managing Privacy in Cyberspace and Across National Borders." October8-10, 1996. Washington, DC. Sponsored by Privacy and AmericanBusiness. Contact: Lorrie Sherwood, (201) 996-1154.

"The Information Society: New Risks & Opportunities in Privacy,"
October 17-18, 1996. Bruxelles, Belgium. Sponsored by the EuropeanParliament. Contact:

"Communications Unleashed - What's at Stake? Who Benefits? How to GetInvolved!" October 19-20, 1996. Washington DC. Sponsored by CPSR andGeorgetown University. Contact:

"19th National Information Systems Security Conference." October22-25, 1996. Baltimore, MD. Sponsored by NSA & NIST. Contact: TammyGrice (301) 948-2067.

"Eurosec'97, the Seventh Annual Forum on Information Systems Qualityand Security." March 17-19. 1997. Paris, France. Sponsored by XPConseil. Contact:
(Send calendar submissions to

The EPIC Alert is a free biweekly publication of the ElectronicPrivacy Information Center. To subscribe, send email with the subject: "subscribe" (no quotes).

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The Electronic Privacy Information Center is a public interestresearch center in Washington, DC. It was established in 1994 to focuspublic attention on emerging privacy issues relating to the NationalInformation Infrastructure, such as the Clipper Chip, the DigitalTelephony proposal, medical record privacy, and the sale of consumerdata. EPIC is sponsored by the Fund for Constitutional Government, anon-profit organization established in 1974 to protect civil libertiesand constitutional rights. EPIC publishes the EPIC Alert, pursuesFreedom of Information Act litigation, and conducts policy research.
For more information, email, HTTP:// orwrite EPIC, 666 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 301, Washington, DC20003. +1 202 544 9240 (tel), +1 202 547 5482 (fax).

If you'd like to support the work of the Electronic Privacy Information
Center, 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 Act and First
Amendment litigation, strong and effective advocacy for the right of
privacy and efforts to oppose government regulation of encryption and
funding of the National Wiretap Plan.

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