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EPIC Alert 8.04 [2001] EPICAlert 4


Volume 8.04 March 1, 2001

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

Table of Contents

[1] Federal Court Dismisses Message Board Libel Case
[2] EPIC Testifies at Congressional Hearing on Consumer Privacy
[3] Civil Society and At-Large Meetings at ICANN Melbourne
[4] Update: N2H2 Ends Relationship with Roper Starch
[5] NIST Seeks Comments on Advanced Encryption Standard
[6] EPIC Bill-Track: New Bills in Congress
[7] EPIC Bookstore - The Hacker Ethic
[8] Upcoming Conferences and Events

[1] Federal Court Dismisses Message Board Libel Case

A federal court in California has dismissed a libel suit against twoindividuals who criticized a publicly traded company on an Internetmessage board. In an opinion issued on February 23, U.S. DistrictJudge David O. Carter found that the individuals were exercising theirrights to free speech under the First Amendment and that theirpostings contained expressions of opinion and not statements of fact.

The decision is significant because it goes to the heart of the dozensof so-called "John Doe" lawsuits that have been filed againstanonymous Internet posters. The majority of the cases, which raisesignificant privacy and free speech issues, are filed by companiesclaiming that postings contained on online message boards aredefamatory. The plaintiff companies typically issue subpoenas to themessage board operators, such as Yahoo! and Raging Bull, seeking theidentities of the anonymous posters. Increasingly, the "John Does"
are fighting back, arguing that the courts should disallow suchsubpoenas unless the suing companies can show that their underlyinglegal claims are legitimate. Several courts have recently agreed torequire such showings (see EPIC Alert 7.21).

In the recent decision, Judge Carter found that Global TelemediaInternational, Inc. (GTMI) had failed to demonstrate that negativepostings about the company on a Raging Bull message board constitutedactionable defamation and interference with economic prospects. Inwhat is believed to be the first ruling of its kind, the court heldthat, as a general matter, Internet message boards almost alwaysconsist of protected opinions, which cannot constitute defamation.
Judge Carter determined that the statements at issue were expressionsof opinion under the "totality of the circumstances" test andconsidered the statements in their broad context, which includes thegeneral tenor and format of the entire message board. He noted that
[t]he statements were posted anonymously in the general cacophony of an internet chat-room which posts around 1,000 messages a week on GTMI. The postings at issue were anonymous as are all the other postings in the chat-room.
They were part of an on-going, free-wheeling and highly animated exchange about GTMI and its turbulent history. ...

Importantly, the postings are full of hyperbole, invective,
short-hand phrases and language not generally found in fact-based documents, such as corporate press releases and SEC filings.

The case is Global Telemedia International, Inc., et al. v. Doe 1, etal., No. 00-1155 (C.D. Cal.).

[2] EPIC Testifies at Congressional Hearing on Consumer Privacy

On March 1, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee onCommerce, Trade and Consumer Protection held a hearing on "Privacy inthe Commercial World," the first House hearing on privacy in the 107thCongress. The witnesses at the hearing included: Professor Fred H.
Cate from the Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington, ProfessorEugene Volokh from the UCLA School of Law, Professor Paul H. Rubinfrom the Emory University School of Law, Ms. Solveig Singleton fromthe Competitive Enterprise Institute, Mr. Marc Rotenberg of theElectronic Privacy Information Center, and Professor Chai R. Feldblumof Georgetown University Law Center.

Rather than addressing a specific bill introduced by a member of theSubcommittee, the hearing aimed to address privacy as a general topicand thus discuss many of the underlying issues to consider aboutprivacy legislation. The Subcommittee, a subset of the HouseCommittee on Energy and Commerce, is one of the subcommittees thatwill likely address future privacy bills in the 107th Congress. Thewitnesses presented wide-ranging views on a variety of topics.

EPIC's testimony discussed the development of privacy law in thecommercial world and the role of technology. The testimony makesseveral points including: the protection of privacy in law is centralto the American legal tradition; privacy law allocates rights andresponsibilities and ensures fairness and transparency in thecollection and use of personal information; privacy laws respond tonew technologies; privacy protection by self-regulation is a recentdevelopment; genuine privacy enhancing technologies (PETs) limit oreliminate the collection of personally identifiable information; freeexpression and privacy protection are complimentary values; federalprivacy legislation typically does not preempt state law; and publicsupport for privacy protection is a significant consideration in thelegislative process.

EPIC's Testimony on Privacy in the Commercial World is available at:
Information about the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and ConsumerProtection hearing:

[3] Civil Society and At-Large Meetings at ICANN Melbourne

At the upcoming Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers(ICANN) meeting in Melbourne, Electronic Frontiers Australia will behosting a series of public meetings on ICANN and civil libertiesissues. The meetings are sponsored by the Civil Society InternetForum (CSIF) and the Interim Coordinating Committee (ICC).

The first meeting, on "Internet Democracy and the Global At-LargeMembership," will take place on Friday, March 9th. To be moderated byKimberley Heitman, Chairman of Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA),
the session will discuss a range of topics including: a generaloverview of ICANN; the ICANN Marina del Rey meeting; reports from theAt-Large Board of Directors; the Internet Coordinating Committee; theICANN At-Large Study; the recent gTLD selection; consensus processesfor the At-Large membership; and CSIF as the Third Force.

The second meeting, on "Civil Liberties," to be chaired by ProfessorToshimaru Ogura of JCA-Net, will take place on Saturday, March 10th.
This second session will cover a number of issues including: privacy,
encryption, wiretapping, free speech, censorship, filtering andrating, Digital Divide and Global Civil Society.

More information about the meetings is available at:
Information about the ICANN meeting in Melbourne, Australia:

[4] Update: N2H2 Ends Relationship with Roper Starch

Internet filtering company N2H2 announced last week that it will nolonger sell the data it collects on schoolchildren through the use ofits "Bess" Internet filtering software. N2H2 had sold this data aspart of its "Class Clicks" report, a compilation of statisticsdetailing what web sites children visit. The data from Class Clickswas sold to Roper Starch Worldwide, a marketing research firm, and tothe U.S. Department of Defense (see EPIC Alert 8.02).

EPIC had filed a series of Freedom of Information Act requests todetermine what information N2H2 was providing to the Department ofDefense. In addition, Responsible Netizen, Commercial Alert, and theCenter for a Commercial-Free Public Education brought public attentionto schoolhouse profiling and commercialization of public schools.

N2H2's announcement is a welcome one, but the privacy challenges ofonline profiling in schools remain. Although N2H2 will no longer sellClass Clicks, the company continues to collect information on thefourteen million children who use the Bess filter.

Legislation has been introduced to stem the commercial profiling ofchildren in schools. S. 290, the Student Privacy Protection Act,
would restrict the commercial gathering of information in theschoolhouse. The bill requires schools to give notice and gainparental consent before engaging in any commercial collection ofinformation from students.

EPIC's Freedom of Information Act request to the Department ofDefense is available at:
S. 290, the Student Privacy Protection Act:

[5] NIST Seeks Comments on Advanced Encryption Standard

On February 28, the National Institute of Standards and Technology(NIST) announced that it is seeking comments on a draft FederalInformation Processing Standard (FIPS) for the Advanced EncryptionStandard (AES). NIST earlier selected the algorithm, known asRijndael, for the AES in October 2000 (see EPIC Alert 7.18). Thedraft FIPS explains this selection in detail and specifies technologythat can be used to protect confidential electronic information.

AES will replace the Data Encryption Standard (DES), adopted by thefederal government as the official encryption standard since 1977.
The weakness of the DES, which relied on 56-bit encryption keys, wasclearly demonstrated by a series of DES Cracker Projects sponsored byRSA Laboratories in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

Comments from the public on the security of AES must be received on orbefore May 29. They will be analyzed by NIST and incorporated, asappropriate, into the draft FIPS before being sent to the Secretary ofCommerce for formal approval.

For more information on how to submit comments, see the FederalRegister Announcement at:
For complete AES-related information, visit the AES home page at:

[6] EPIC Bill-Track: New Bills in Congress


H.R.602 Genetic Nondiscrimination in Health Insurance and EmploymentAct. To prohibit discrimination on the basis of genetic informationwith respect to health insurance. Sponsor: Rep Slaughter, LouiseMcIntosh (D-NY). Latest Major Action: 2/13/2001 Referred to Housecommittee: House Education and the Workforce; House Energy andCommerce; House Ways and Means.

H.R.718 Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Act of 2001. To protectindividuals, families, and Internet service providers from unsolicitedand unwanted electronic mail. Sponsor: Rep Wilson, Heather (R-NM).
Latest Major Action: 2/14/2001 Referred to House committee: HouseEnergy and Commerce; House Judiciary.


S.318 Genetic Nondiscrimination in Health Insurance and EmploymentAct. A bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of geneticinformation with respect to health insurance. Sponsor: Sen Daschle,
Thomas A. (D-SD). Latest Major Action: 2/13/2001 Referred to Senatecommittee: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

S.324 Social Security Number Privacy Act of 2001. A bill to amend theGramm-Leach-Bliley Act, to prohibit the sale and purchase of thesocial security number of an individual by financial institutions, toinclude social security numbers in the definition of nonpublicpersonal information, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen Shelby,
Richard C. (R-AL) Latest Major Action: 2/14/2001 Referred to Senatecommittee: Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

S.382 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination in Health Insurance Act of2001. A bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of geneticinformation with respect to health insurance. Sponsor: Sen Snowe,
Olympia J. (R-ME). Latest Major Action: 2/15/2001 Referred to Senatecommittee: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

EPIC Bill Track: Tracking Privacy, Speech, and Cyber-Liberties Billsin the 107th Congress, is available at:

[7] EPIC Bookstore - The Hacker Ethic

The Hacker Ethic & the Spirit of the Information Age by Pekka Himanen,
Linus Torvalds (Prologue), and Manuel Castells (Epilogue)
Nearly a century ago, Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spiritof Capitalism articulated the animating spirit of the industrial age,
the Protestant ethic. Now, Pekka Himanen -- together with LinusTorvalds and Manuel Castells -- articulates how hackers* represent anew, opposing ethos for the information age. Underlying hackers'
technical creations -- such as the Internet and the personalcomputers, which have become symbols of our time -- are the hackervalues that produced them and challenge us all. These values promotepassionate and freely rhythmed work; the belief that individuals cancreate great things by joining forces in imaginative ways; and theneed to maintain our existing ethical ideals, such as privacy andequality, in our new, increasingly technologized society. The HackerEthic takes us on a journey through fundamental questions about lifein the information age -- a trip of constant surprises, after whichour time and our lives can be seen from unexpected perspectives.

* In the original meaning of the word, hackers are enthusiasticcomputer programmers who share their work with others; they are notcomputer criminals.

For other books recommended by EPIC, browse the EPIC Bookshelf at:

EPIC Publications:

"The Consumer Law Sourcebook 2000: Electronic Commerce and the GlobalEconomy," Sarah Andrews, editor (EPIC 2000). Price: $40.

The Consumer Law Sourcebook provides a basic set of materials forconsumers, policy makers, practitioners and researchers who areinterested in the emerging field of electronic commerce. The focus ison framework legislation that articulates basic rights for consumersand the basic responsibilities for businesses in the online economy.

"Privacy & Human Rights 2000: An International Survey of Privacy Lawsand Developments," David Banisar, author (EPIC 2000).
Price: $20.

This survey, by EPIC and Privacy International, reviews the state ofprivacy in over fifty countries around the world. The survey examinesa wide range of privacy issues including, data protection, telephonetapping, genetic databases, ID systems and freedom of informationlaws.

"The Privacy Law Sourcebook 2000: United States Law, InternationalLaw, and Recent Developments," Marc Rotenberg, editor (EPIC 2000).
Price: $40.

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, aswell as a comprehensive listing of privacy resources.

"Cryptography and Liberty 2000: An International Survey of EncryptionPolicy," Wayne Madsen and David Banisar, authors (EPIC 2000).
Price: $20.

EPIC's third survey of encryption policies around the world. Theresults indicate that the efforts to reduce export controls on strongencryption products have largely succeeded, although severalgovernments are gaining new powers to combat the perceived threats ofencryption to law enforcement.

"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.

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

[8] Upcoming Conferences and Events

The Second National HIPAA Summit: The Leading Forum on HealthcarePrivacy, Confidentiality, Data Security and HIPAA Compliance. March1-2, 2001. Washington, DC. For more information:

Wiretapping the Net. Harvard Information Infrastructure ProjectSeminar. March 5, 2001. Cambridge, MA. For more information:
None of Your Business: The Politics and Business Implications ofPrivacy. New York New Media Association. March 6, 2001. New York, NY.
For more information:

CFP 2001: the Eleventh Conference on Computers, Freedom and Privacy.
March 6-9, 2001. Cambridge, MA. For more information:

Consumer Assembly 2001: New Issues in a New Political and EconomicEra. Consumer Federation of America. March 8-9, 2001. Washington, DC.
For more information:
Reclaiming the American Commons. The New America Foundation. March 12,
2001. Washington, DC. For more information:

Freedom of Expression: New and Existing Challenges. Organization forSecurity and Co-operation in Europe, Office for DemocraticInstitutions and Human Rights. March 12-13, 2001. Vienna, Austria.
For more information:
The Information Marketplace: Merging and Exchanging Consumer Data.
Federal Trade Commission. March 13, 2001. Washington, DC. For moreinformation:

EUROSEC 2001: Forum sur la Sécurité des Systèmes d'Information. XPConseil. March 13-15, 2001. Paris, France. For more information:

Privacy. New School University. March 23-24, 2001. Budapest, Hungary.
For more information:

Online, Offshore and Cross-Border: Regulating Global E-Commerce.
Washington College of Law, American University. March 30, 2001.
Washington, DC. For more information:
Call For Papers - March 31, 2001 (prizes available for graduatestudent papers). The 29th Research Conference on Communication,
Information and Internet Policy. October 27-29, 2001. Alexandria, VA.
For more information:
BNA Public Policy Forum: Cybersecurity and Privacy. Pike and Fischer,
Inc. April 4, 2001. Washington, DC. For more information:

First International Conference on Human Aspects of the InformationSociety. Information Management Research Institute, University ofNorthumbria at Newcastle. April 9-11, 2001. Newcastle upon Tyne,
England. For more information:
Corporate Privacy Officers Program 2001: Washington Briefing and PeerWorkshop. Privacy and American Business. April 11-12, 2001.
Washington, DC. For more information:

National Summit on Electronic Privacy. The National Institute forGovernment Innovation. April 23-24, 2001. Washington, DC. For moreinformation:

The 26th Annual AAAS Colloquium on Science and Technology Policy.
American Association for the Advancement of Science. May 3-4, 2001.
Washington, DC. For more information:
The Internet Security Conference (TISC) 2001. Core Competence, Inc.
June 4-8, 2001. Los Angeles, CA. For more information:

INET 2001: A Net Odyssey, Mobility and the Internet. The 11th AnnualInternet Society Conference. June 5-8, 2001. Stockholm, Sweden. Formore information:

Call For Submissions - August 3, 2001. Workshop on Security andPrivacy in Digital Rights Management 2001. Eighth Association forComputing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Computer and CommunicationsSecurity. November 5, 2001. For more information:

Privacy2001: Information, Security & Ethics for the New Century.
Technology Policy Group. October 3-4, 2001. Cleveland, Ohio. For moreinformation:

Learning for the Future. Business for Social Responsibility's NinthAnnual Conference. November 7-9, 2001. Seattle, WA. For moreinformation:

Subscription Information

The EPIC Alert is a free biweekly publication of the ElectronicPrivacy Information Center. A Web-based form is available forsubscribing or unsubscribing at:
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The EPIC Alert mailing list is used only to mail the EPIC Alert and tosend notices about EPIC activities. We do not sell, rent or share ourmailing list. We also intend to challenge any subpoena or other legalprocess seeking access to our mailing list. We do not enhance (linkto other databases) our mailing list or require your actual name.

In the event you wish to subscribe or unsubscribe your email addressfrom this list, please follow the above instructions under"subscription information". Please contact if you haveany other questions.

About EPIC

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 such as the ClipperChip, the Digital Telephony proposal, national ID cards, medicalrecord privacy, and the collection and sale of personal information.
EPIC publishes the EPIC Alert, pursues Freedom of Information Actlitigation, and conducts policy research. For more information,
e-mail, or write EPIC, 1718Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20009.
+1 202 483 1140 (tel), +1 202 483 1248 (fax).

If you'd like to support the work of the Electronic PrivacyInformation Center, contributions are welcome and fullytax-deductible. Checks should be made out to "EPIC" and sent to1718 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20009.
Or you can contribute online at
Your contributions will help support Freedom of Information Act andFirst Amendment litigation, strong and effective advocacy for theright of privacy and efforts to oppose government regulation ofencryption and expanding wiretapping powers.

Thank you for your support.

END EPIC Alert 8.04


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