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EPIC Alert 5.08 [1998] EPICAlert 8


Volume 5.08 June 17, 1998

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

Table of Contents

[1] Subcommittee to Vote on Copyright Bill
[2] Senate May Soon Consider Internet Censorship Bills
[3] Commerce Department Announces Net Privacy Summit
[4] FTC Releases Report on Online Privacy
[5] House Approves Child Protection Bill
[6] EPIC Testifies on Copyright and Privacy
[7] New Congressional Bills and Upcoming Hearings
[8] Upcoming Conferences and Events

[1] Subcommittee to Vote on Copyright Bill

The House Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade andConsumer Protection will vote today on controversial legislation toimplement the World Intellectual Property Organization Treaty onCopyright. The "WIPO Implementation Act" (H.R. 2281) willover-regulate emerging technologies, eliminate privacy protections,
outlaw reverse engineering and encryption research, and weaken fairuse privileges. The bill has already been approved by the Senate andthe House Judiciary Committee.

Computer professionals and consumers are urged to contact theirRepresentatives and the members of the Commerce Committee and say thatthey oppose the bill as currently drafted and that they supportamendments that will correct the problems described below:

Section 1201: Makes the use, manufacture or sale of any technologythat can be used to circumvent copyright protections illegal. Thissection will criminalize the manufacture, import, or use of toolsnecessary to perform research in cryptography; impede the ability ofsystem operators to find and correct weaknesses in their systems;
prevent computer users from protecting their privacy online byremoving cookies from their computer. Additionally, if cookies areused as a copyright protection system it would be unlawful tomanufacture a device that removes the cookie from the system.

Section 1202: Allows for the collection of personally identifiableinformation as part of the Copyright Management System. This sectionwill allow content owners to collect personally-identifiableinformation about users who access their copyrighted works. This willeliminate anonymous reading and allow content owners to track not onlywhich online magazines you access but also which articles you read andwhich pictures you look at.

[See item 6, below, for details of EPIC's testimony on the bill.]

More information is available from the EPIC/EFF/CPT alert at:

[2] Senate May Soon Consider Internet Censorship Bills

The Senate may soon vote on two Internet censorship bills. Sen. JohnMcCain's "Internet School Filtering Act" (S. 1619) would requireschools and libraries receiving federal Internet subsidies to installfiltering software designed to prevent children from accessing"inappropriate" material. Sen. Dan Coats' bill (S. 1482) wouldcriminalize the "commercial" distribution on websites of material thatis "harmful to minors." The Coats bill, in adopting a criminalizationapproach to online content, is similar to the Communications DecencyAct (CDA) struck down last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. The billhas been dubbed "CDA II."

The Senate Commerce Committee approved both measures on March 12. Thebills were initially scheduled for consideration during the Senate's"Tech Week" last month, when "non-controversial" technologylegislation were brought to the Senate floor. Growing controversysurrounding the bills apparently led to their removal from the agenda.

It is likely that supporters of the legislation will again attempt tobring the bills to the floor, possibly as amendments to lesscontroversial Internet-related measures. EPIC is joining with theACLU and EFF in sponsoring an online campaign to raise Congressionalawareness of the implications of these Internet censorship bills.
Faxes can be sent -- free of charge -- to your Senators by visitingthe EPIC Free Speech Action page:

If you sent faxes to the Senate last month, you helped keep thesebills off the floor. Please reiterate your concerns once again andlet your Senators know that these measures remain controversial.

Additional information on Internet censorship is also available at theInternet Free Expression Alliance website:

[3] Commerce Department to Hold Privacy Summit

The Commerce Department has announced that its long-awaited publicmeeting on privacy will be held on June 23 and 24 in Washington, D.C.
The topics discussed will include:

* Lack of privacy in online transactions, Internet browsing and email;
* Privacy issues specific to children in the online environment;
* The problems with industry self regulation;
* A proposed methodology to further delay reform of privacy policies;
* Need for legislation to protect privacy on the Internet;
* Technologies based on anonymity currently available on the Internet to protect consumer privacy + Importance of strong encryption for electronic commerce and consumer privacy
The meeting was originally scheduled for April but it has been delayedseveral times due to controversy over who would organize it and whattopics would be discussed. Over 70 advocates, professionals andacademics wrote Commerce Secretary Daley in February expressingconcern over the agenda, which was heavily biased towards industryself-regulation and had little representation from consumer andprivacy advocates.

More information on the meeting is available at:

Letter Regarding a Proposed White House Conference on Privacy:

[4] FTC Releases Privacy Report

Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission released its PrivacyOnline Report to Congress. The report is based on a comprehensiveonline survey of information practices of commercial Web sitesconducted in March 1998. Surveying over 1,400 Web sites, theCommission reported that upwards of 85 percent of Web sites collectpersonal information, while only 14 percent provide any notice abouttheir information practice.

The Commission also performed a separate study concerning thecollection of information at children's sites. It found that 89percent of those sites collect personal information from children.
While 54 percent of children's sites do provide some sort ofdisclosure about their information practices, only 23 percent tell thechildren to seek parental permission before providing personalinformation. Furthermore, only seven percent of the sites indicatethat they will notify parents of their information practices and lessthan 10 percent provide for parental control over the collectionand/or use of information obtained from children.

It is evident from these findings that self-regulation has been so farunsuccessful. As the Commission concludes, "substantially greaterincentives are needed to spur self-regulation." It will recommend anappropriate response to protect online consumer privacy later thissummer. However, in response to its findings on children's privacy,
the Commission already recommends that Congress develop legislationplacing parents in control of the online collection and use ofpersonal information from children 12 and under. In addition, the FTChas released a staff opinion letter stating that the collection ofcertain personal information from children online and its transfer tothird parties without obtaining prior parental consent may be anunfair practice in violation of Section 5 of the Federal TradeCommission Act.

The findings of the FTC report confirms EPIC's own 1997 online privacyreport -- "Surfer Beware" -- which reviewed 100 of the most frequentlyvisited web sites on the Internet. However, despite its findings, theFTC still seems to be leaning towards an industry self-regulationapproach. According to the report, "the question is what additionalincentives are required in order to encourage effectiveself-regulatory efforts by industry." The Commission's focus onnotice as "the most fundamental fair information practice" also seemsmisled. Fair information practices need to further articulate theresponsibilities of the data collectors and rights of the datasubjects.

The FTC report is available at:
EPIC's "Surfer Beware" report is available at:

[5] House Approves Child Protection Bill

The House of Representatives approved a bill on June 9 that wouldweaken legal protections on the privacy of electronic mail and recordsand threaten online privacy. The House unanimously approved H.R.
3494, the Child Protection and Sexual Predator Punishment Act of1998. The bill requires Internet service providers who become aware ofchild pornography to report it to the Justice Department. The billrequires that ISPs who "obtain knowledge of facts or circumstancesfrom which a violation of [laws on] child pornography is apparentshall make a report to a [federal] agency." The bill amends theElectronic Communications Privacy Act by removing the requirement thatlaw enforcement obtain a court order before the ISP can discloseprivate email when the presence of child pornography is suspected.
ISPs that do not report can be fined $100,000.

The bill also criminalizes transmitting personally identifiableinformation about persons under 18 by computer for the purpose of"facilitating, encouraging, offering, or soliciting any person toengage in sexual activity." It requires the Attorney General to"begin a study of computer-based technologies and other approaches tothe problem of the availability of pornographic materials to childrenon the Internet, in order to develop possible amendments to Federalcriminal law and other law enforcement techniques to respond to thisproblem." The study would look at filtering technologies and theirlimitations, criminal law options for promoting the development, andapplicable constitutional limitations. The report would be due in twoyears.

[6] EPIC Testifies on Copyright and Privacy

On June 5, EPIC Director Marc Rotenberg testified before theSubcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade, and Consumer Protection ofthe House Commerce Committee. His testimony focused on the privacyissues concerning H.R. 2281, a bill currently being considered in theHouse of Representatives. Known as the WIPO Copyright TreatiesImplementation Act, H.R. 2281 intends to implement the WorldIntellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty to protectcopyrighted material in the digital age. However, as Rotenbergtestified, "H.R. 2281, as currently drafted, threatens to obliterateexisting privacy safeguards."

Specifically, privacy concerns must be addressed in Section 1202 ofthe bill which seeks to preserve the integrity of copyright managementinformation. Copyright management information is information whichmay be collected in the course of establishing a copyright system.
However, as defined in the bill, "copyright management information" istoo broad. While the bill defines what copyright managementinformation can be, it does not define what cannot be. That is, thedefinition of copyright management information does not preclude thecollection of personally identifiable information. It is importantthat developers of copyright management systems are aware thatpersonal identifiable information should not be incorporated in suchsystems.

The testimony also discussed the privacy concerns in Section1201(a)(1) which simply states that "No person shall circumvent atechnological protection measure that effectively controls access."
Because technology such as Internet cookies could arguably be used"control access" to copyrighted works on a Web site, Rotenberg arguedthat such language was too broad and would inadvertently make itillegal for individuals from removing cookies from their own harddrives.

The EPIC testimony also addressed additional issues concerning theOnline Service Provider liability, encryption research, and lawenforcement exceptions in the bill. Ultimately, Rotenberg called forthe Subcommittee to "consider a new provision that would explicitlyguarantee the right of individual to receive information withoutdisclosure of identity -- a right of anonymity."

The EPIC testimony is available at:

[7] New Congressional Bills and Upcoming Hearings

* New Bills *

H.R. 3975. Drug-Free Ports Act. Allows greater access to informationheld by U.S. Justice Department for background checks. Introduced byShaw (R-FL) on May 22. Referred to the Committee on theJudiciary.

An updated list of the over 100 bills pending in Congress thatrelate to privacy and free speech is available at:

[8] Upcoming Conferences and Events

INET'98, July 21-24, 1998, Geneva, Switzerland. Sponsored by InternetSociety. Contact:

Advances in Social Informatics and Information Systems, Baltimore, MD,
Aug. 14-16, 1998. Sponsored by the Association for Information SystemsContact:
Telecommunications Policy Research Conference. October 3-5, 1998Alexandria, Virginia. Contact:

CPSR Annual Conference - Internet Governance. Boston, Mass, Oct.
10-11. Sponsored by CPSR. contact:
PDC 98 - the Participatory Design Conference, "BroadeningParticipation" November 12-14, 1998. Seattle, Washington. Sponsored byComputer Professionals for Social Responsibility in cooperation withACM and CSCW 98. Contact:
Computer Ethics. Philosophical Enquiry 98 (CEPE'98). 14-15 December1998 London, UK. Sponsored by ACMSIGCAS and London School ofEconomics.
1999 RSA Data Security Conference. San Jose, California, January18-21, 1999. Sponsored by RSA. Contact:

(Send calendar submissions to

Subscription Information

The EPIC Alert is a free biweekly publication of the ElectronicPrivacy Information Center. To subscribe or unsubscribe, send emailto with the subject: "subscribe" (no quotes) or"unsubscribe". A Web-based form is available at:
Back issues are available at:

About EPIC

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is a public interest researchcenter in Washington, DC. It was established in 1994 to focus publicattention on emerging privacy issues such as the Clipper Chip, theDigital Telephony proposal, national ID cards, medical record privacy,
and the collection and sale of personal information. EPIC is sponsoredby the Fund for Constitutional Government, a non-profit organizationestablished in 1974 to protect civil liberties and constitutionalrights. EPIC publishes the EPIC Alert, pursues Freedom of InformationAct litigation, and conducts policy research. For more information,
e-mail, or write EPIC, 666Pennsylvania 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. Checksshould be made out to "The Fund for Constitutional Government" and sentto EPIC, 666 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 301, Washington DC 20003.
Individuals with First Virtual accounts can donate at
Your contributions will help support Freedom of Information Act andFirst Amendment litigation, strong and effective advocacy for the rightof privacy and efforts to oppose government regulation of encryptionand funding of the digital wiretap law.

Thank you for your support.

END EPIC Alert 5.08

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