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EPIC Alert 7.03 [2000] EPICAlert 3


Volume 7.03 February 22, 2000

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

Table of Contents

[1] EPIC Complaint Focuses Attention on DoubleClick and Privacy
[2] Michigan Community Targeted by Filtering Proponents
[3] EPIC Testifies on Data Protection before European Parliament
[4] Consumer Groups Shed Light on Privacy Aspects of Mergers
[5] Proposed Financial Privacy Rules Released
[6] President Issues Executive Order on Genetic Privacy
[7] EPIC Bookstore -- EPIC Publications
[8] Upcoming Conferences and Events

[1] EPIC Complaint Focuses Attention on DoubleClick and Privacy

The information practices of DoubleClick, the leading Internetadvertising firm, have moved online privacy issues to the forefront ofpublic attention. On February 10, EPIC filed a formal complaintagainst the company with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Thecomplaint alleges that DoubleClick is unlawfully tracking the onlineactivities of Internet users and combining surfing records withdetailed personal profiles contained in a national marketing database.
EPIC asked the FTC to investigate the practices of the company, todestroy all records wrongfully obtained, to invoke civil penalties,
and to enjoin the firm from violating the Federal Trade CommissionAct.

DoubleClick recently revealed that the FTC has notified the firm thatit is "conducting an informal inquiry into our business practices todetermine whether, in collecting and maintaining informationconcerning Internet users, we have engaged in unfair or deceptivepractices." The company also disclosed that it is being investigatedby the New York Attorney General's office and has been named in sixseparate lawsuits concerning its information collection activities.
The Attorney General of Michigan has also announced her intention tofile suit against the company.

The EPIC complaint, and the other proceedings, follow the recentmerger of DoubleClick and Abacus Direct, the country's largest catalogdatabase firm. DoubleClick has announced its intention to combineanonymous Internet profiles in the DoubleClick database with thepersonal information contained in the Abacus database. EPIC'scomplaint alleges that DoubleClick's merger of the two databasesviolates the companies' assurances that the information it collects onInternet users would remain anonymous, and that the data collectionwas therefore unfair and deceptive. EPIC also charges that thecompany has failed to follow its revised privacy policy and that thisis also unfair.

The FTC investigation of DoubleClick is likely to be a critical testof the current state of privacy protection in the United States. Itmay determine, for instance, whether companies that break theirpromises and collect personal information in an unfair and deceptivemanner will be held accountable. Because much of the informationcollection that occurs on the Internet is invisible to the consumer,
it raises serious questions of fairness and informed consent.

The text of EPIC's complaint against DoubleClick is available onlineat:
Background information on the DoubleClick/Abacus merger, includinglinks to coverage of the recent controversy, is available at:

[2] Michigan Community Targeted by Filtering Proponents

Citizens of Holland, Michigan are today voting on a ballot measurethat would require the city to withhold funding to the districtlibrary unless the library installs Internet filtering software on itspublic computers. The referendum campaign has been financed by theAmerican Family Association, a conservative religious group based inMississippi. The group has been running television ads urging Hollandvoters to "Send America a Message" and "Vote 'Yes' on InternetFilters."

Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) endorsed the Internetfilter measure during a campaign visit to Holland last month. McCain,
chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has long been an advocateof mandatory Internet filters in public schools and libraries (seeEPIC Alert 6.10). The ballot measure has also been endorsed byMcCain's rivals in today's Michigan primary, Texas Gov. George W. Bushand Alan Keyes.

Significantly, the filtering referendum is opposed by Holland Mayor AlMcGeehan and other city officials, many of whom describe themselves as"conservatives." Opponents of the measure resent the involvement of"outside agitators," and cite the potential financial and legalramifications that would follow a "yes" vote. Without Holland'scontribution to the regional library's budget, the library woulddefault on a construction loan used to build the new library a yearago. Such a default would destroy the community's bond rating.

Opposition is being coordinated by an ad-hoc local group, Families forInternet Access, which has mounted its door-to-door educationalcampaign with less than $2,500 in local donations. The filteringadvocates have received $45,000 in donations (much of it from outsideinterest groups) to finance television spots, direct mail andtelephone canvassing.

Additional information on mandatory Internet filtering is available atthe Internet Free Expression Alliance website:

[3] EPIC Testifies on Data Protection before European Parliament

The European Parliament Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights,
Justice and Home Affairs, along with the Committee on Legal Affairsand the Internal Market, is currently holding hearings on the"European Union and Data Protection." EPIC Executive Director MarcRotenberg will be presenting testimony on the current state of dataprotection in the United States.

The hearings will touch on several issues relating to privacyprotection in the European Union, including implementation of the EUData Protection Directive, the ongoing Safe Harbor negotiations, andthe ECHELON surveillance network. EPIC's testimony largely addressesthe failure of self-regulation in the United States to adequatelyprotect consumer privacy on the Internet. The testimony also supportslegally enforceable privacy protection and adoption of privacyenhancing techniques as necessary for the continued protection of thefundamental right of privacy in the information society.

The text of EPIC's testimony before the European Parliament isavailable at:
More information about the European Parliament hearing on the"European Union and Data Protection" is available at:

[4] Consumer Groups Shed Light on Privacy Aspects of Mergers

On February 15, the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), acoalition of over sixty American and European consumer groups, calledon U.S. and EU officials to halt the America Online-Time Warner mergeruntil consumer privacy concerns have been adequately addressed.

The proposed multimedia merger would combine records from AmericaOnline's 20 million subscribers and Time Warner's customer base ofover 65 million households. The TACD resolution notes that neithercompany has a stellar record on consumer privacy. Furthermore, thevalue of the information in the hands of the merged company should notbe overlooked:

The combined databases of the two firms would likely produce the most detailed records on consumers ever assembled, from favorite television programs to book purchases to associations with religious organizations and even political preferences.

In addition to its recommendation that approval of the merger beconditioned on the provision of privacy safeguards, the TACD alsourges the United States to adopt a comprehensive privacy law thatwould apply in these situations. The coalition also recommends thatthe Safe Harbor negotiators consider the consequences of such mergersin the course of future discussions, and that both the U.S. and the EUconsider legal mechanisms to protect privacy in future mergers.

The TACD "Resolution on the Merger of America Online and Time Warnerand Privacy Protection in the Interactive Broadband Environment" isavailable at:
For more information about the TACD and other resolutions concerningconsumer protection in electronic commerce:

[5] Proposed Financial Privacy Rules Released

On February 3, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, theBoard of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal DepositInsurance Corporation, and the Office of Thrift Supervision issued ajoint notice of proposed rulemaking on financial privacy.

The rules will implement the privacy provisions of the FinancialServices Modernization Act (also known as Gramm-Leach-Bliley). TheAct eliminated many federal barriers to mergers between variousfinancial institutions, including banks, securities firms andinsurers. Importantly, Gramm-Leach-Bliley will establish some limitson disclosure of personal financial information in the hands of thesebusinesses.

Many consumer groups, including EPIC, US PIRG, Consumers Union, andthe Consumer Federation of America, have found the privacy provisionsof the Financial Services Modernization Act inadequate, especiallyconsidering the mergers that will take place after the law goes intoeffect. Also, President Clinton noted the need for greaterprotections over financial information than those offered by the billwhen he signed it into law.

Comments on the proposed rules are due on March 31.

Copies of the proposed rules and instructions for filing comments canbe downloaded in PDF format from:

[6] President Issues Executive Order on Genetic Privacy

Following-up on a proposal made in his State of the Union Address,
President Clinton issued an Executive Order on February 8 prohibitingfederal agencies from using genetic information in decisionsconcerning employment. The Executive Order would cover roughly 2.8million citizens working for the federal government.

The Executive Order does not flatly prohibit federal agencies fromcollecting genetic information from their employees. Such informationcan be collected in certain instances but will be stored as part ofconfidential medical records.

In the press release accompanying the Executive Order, the Presidentalso expressed his support for similar legislative proposals thatwould apply to the private sector. The Genetic InformationNondiscrimination in Health Insurance and Employment Act of 1999introduced in the Senate (S.1322) by Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) and inthe House of Representatives (H.R.2457) by Rep. Louise Slaughter(D-NY) would extend similar protections to non-government workplaces.

The President's Executive Order is available at:
The accompanying press release can be found at:

[7] EPIC Bookstore -- EPIC Publications

EPIC Publications:

"The Privacy Law Sourcebook: United States Law, International Law, andRecent Developments," Marc Rotenberg, editor (EPIC 1999). Price: $50.

The "Physicians Desk Reference of the privacy world." An invaluableresource for students, attorneys, researchers and journalists who needan up-to-date collection of U.S. and International privacy law, as wellas a comprehensive listing of privacy resources.

"Filters and Freedom - Free Speech Perspectives on Internet ContentControls," David Sobel, editor (EPIC 1999). Price: $20.

A collection of essays, studies, and critiques of Internet contentfiltering. These papers are instrumental in explaining why filteringthreatens free expression.

"Cryptography and Liberty: An International Survey of CryptographyPolicy" Wayne Madsen and David Banisar, editors, (EPIC 1999). Price:

An international survey of encryption policies around the world. Surveyresults show that in the vast majority of countries, cryptography maybe freely used, manufactured, and sold without restriction, with theU.S. being a notable exception.

"Privacy and Human Rights 1999: An International Survey of Privacy Lawsand Developments" David Banisar, Simon Davies, editors, (EPIC 1999).
Price: $15.

An international survey of the privacy and data protection laws foundin 50 countries around the globe. This report outlines theconstitutional and legal conditions of privacy protection, andsummarizes important issues and events relating to privacy andsurveillance.

Additional titles on privacy, open government, free expression,
computer security, and crypto, as well as films and DVDs can be orderedthrough the EPIC Bookstore:

[8] Upcoming Conferences and Events

Privacy, Security & Confidentiality of Medical Records 2000: ComplyingWith New HIPAA Regulations. NonProfit Management. One Day Seminars.
Various Locations and Times. For more information:
Federal Trade Commission Advisory Committee on Online Privacy andSecurity. Series of Meetings. Federal Trade Commission Headquarters.
Washington, D.C. For more information:

Financial Cryptography '00. International Financial CryptographyAssociation. February 21-24, 2000. InterIsland Hotel. Anguilla, BritishWest Indies. For more information:

The New Wave of Privacy Protection in Canada. BC Freedom of Informationand Privacy Association and Riley Information Services. March 9-10,
2000. Hotel Vancouver. Vancouver, British Columbia. For moreinformation:
HIPAA Security and Privacy Requirements: A How To Blueprint forCompliance. MIS Training Institute. Two-day Seminars. Various Locationsand Times. For more information:
Entrust SecureSummit 2000. May 1-4, 2000. Hyatt Regency Dallas atReunion. Dallas, Texas. For more information:
Shaping the Network: The Future of the Public Sphere in Cyberspace.
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR). Call forPapers -- Abstracts Due February 15. May 20-23, 2000. Seattle,
Washington. For more information:
Telecommunications: The Bridge to Globalization in the InformationSociety. Biennial Conference of the International TelecommunicationsSociety. July 2-5, 2000. For more information:
KnowRight 2000 - InfoEthics Europe. Austrian Computer Society andUNESCO. Call for Papers -- Due March 3. September 26-29, 2000.
Vienna. For more information:
Privacy2000: Information and Security in the Digital Age. November 29,
2000. Adam's Mark Hotel. Columbus, Ohio. For more information:

Subscription Information

The EPIC Alert is a free biweekly publication of the Electronic PrivacyInformation Center. A Web-based form is available for subscribing orunsubscribing at:
To subscribe or unsubscribe using email, send email with the subject: "subscribe" (no quotes) or"unsubscribe".

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.

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 expanding wiretapping powers.

Thank you for your support.

END EPIC Alert 7.03


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