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EPIC Alert 3.03 [1996] EPICAlert 3


Volume 3.03 February 8, 1996

Published by the

Electronic Privacy Information Center

Washington, D.C.

Table of Contents

[1] Telecom Bill Signed; Lawsuit Challenges "Indecency" Provision

[2] Court of Appeals OK's Caller ID

[3] Court Refuses to Hear Avrahami Case

[4] Upcoming Conferences and Events

[1] Telecom Bill Signed; Lawsuit Challenges "Indecency" Provision

President Clinton signed the telecommunications reform legislation,
which includes Internet "indecency" restrictions, in a ceremony todayat the Library of Congress. While touting the virtues of the "V-chip"
provisions intended to block children's access to violent televisionprogramming, the President was silent on the controversial Internetcensorship measure.

Shortly after the bill was signed, EPIC, in conjunction with theAmerican Civil Liberties Union and a broad coalition of otherorganizations, filed suit in federal district court in Philadelphiaseeking a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the"indecency" provision. EPIC is participating as both co-counsel andplaintiff in the litigation.

The legislation's vague "indecency" standard will have an obviousimpact upon the free speech rights of millions of Americans who usecomputer networks to receive and distribute information. Less apparentis the assault on privacy rights that the legislation will engender.
EPIC believes that in order to avoid potential criminal liability underthe "indecency" provision, information providers would, in effect, berequired to verify the identities and ages of all recipients ofmaterial that might be deemed inappropriate for children. The newstatutory regime would thus result in the creation of "registrationrecords" for tens of thousands of Internet sites, containing detaileddescriptions of information accessed by particular recipients. Such aregime constitutes a gross violation of Americans' rights to accessinformation privately and anonymously.

According to David L. Sobel, Legal Counsel for EPIC, "Whether themillions of individuals visiting sites on the Internet are seekinginformation on teenage pregnancy, AIDS and other sexually transmitteddiseases, classic works of literature or avant-garde poetry, they enjoya Constitutional right to do so privately and anonymously. TheInternet "indecency" provisions seek to destroy that right."

EPIC is confident that upon review of the legislation and its impactupon free speech and privacy rights in emerging electronic media, thecourts will invalidate the measure as fundamentally at odds with theConstitution.

Current information on the litigation, including the complaint, isavailable at:

[2] Court of Appeals OK's Caller ID

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on January 31 denied a request by theCalifornia Public Utility Commission and several public interest andbattered women's groups to strike down the pending FCC rules on CallerID.

California rules had required that telephone companies automaticallyprovide per line blocking (the caller's number is not transmittedunless he or she specifically arranges for disclosure) for allsubscribers with unlisted or unpublished numbers. The FCC rule overrodethat provision and required that subscribers will have only per callblocking (they must first dial *67 to blocking their number before eachcall) .

The court gave great deference to the FCC decision to partiallypre-empt the California Public Utility Commission rules on Caller ID.
The court ruled that the FCC's decision was not "arbitrary andcapricious" because it was "necessary to prevent negation of a validFCC regulatory goal" and that "the imposition of the per call blockingoption on subscribers with nonpublished numbers and emergency serviceorganizations, who do not make a choice between Caller ID blockingsystems, does not violate any federal constitutional right."

The text of the decision is available at:

[3] Court Refuses to Hear Avrahami Case

A Virginia district court on February 6 refused to hear the case of aman suing U.S. News & World Report for selling his personal informationwithout his consent. District Court Judge Karen Henenberg ruled thatthe lower court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. The judgereversed a previous ruling she issued in November that she could hearthe case. The practical effect of the decision is to delay judicialconsideration of the legal issues raised in the case.

The case now goes to the higher Circuit Court to hear a motion by U.S.
News requesting trial in that court. The hearing is scheduled for June6.

USA Today recently commented on the efforts of Avrahami and severalothers opposing junk mail practices by noting that "for anyone tired ofemptying wastebaskets laden with unwanted mail, the efforts of Beken,
Avhrahami, and others deserve a cheer."

More information on the case is available at:

[4] Upcoming Conferences and Events

Technologies of Freedom: Blueprints for Action, Feb. 29-March 2.
Washington, DC. Sponsored by the Alliance for Public Technology.
Contact: Ruth Holder or

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 shouldbe submitted by February 1, 1996. Contact Wade Robison,
by FAX at (716) 475-7120, or by phone at (716) 475-6643.

IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, May 6-8, 1996. Oakland, CA.
Sponsored by IEEE. Contact: or

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
Australasian Conference on Information Security and Privacy June 24-26,
1996. New South Wales, Australia. Sponsored by Australasian Society forElectronic Security and University of Wollongong. Contact: JenniferSeberry (

Privacy Laws & Business 9th Annual Conference. July 1-3, 1996. St.
John's College, Cambridge, England. Contact: Ms. Gill Ehrlich +44 181423 1300 (tel), +44 181 423 4536 (fax).

Advanced Surveillance Technologies II. Sponsored by EPIC and PrivacyInternational. September 16, 1996. Ottawa, Canada. or

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

(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).

Back issues are available via

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.

Thank you for your support.

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