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FC: Nat'l Consumer Coalition opposes privacy pledge; others endorse it
From: Declan McCullagh <declan () well com>
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2001 16:20:59 -0500


National Consumer Coalition / "Protecting Consumers' Real Interests"

For Immediate Release
Contact: James Plummer
         (202) 467-5809

NCC's Privacy Group Cautions Against Hasty Pledges That May Harm

WASHINGTON, DC -- Several members of the National Consumer Coalition's
(NCC) Privacy Group today expressed concern at the rush to endorse the
Federal Trade Commission's so-called "Fair Information Practice
Principles" ("FIPPs"). Lawmakers who pledge fidelity to this agenda
are essentially promising to limit consumer choice and the free flow
of information and to regulate the burgeoning Internet economy,
passing costs on to consumers.

The FIPPs, as well as a call for federal information regulation is
encompassed in a "Privacy Pledge" distributed today by groups calling
themselves The Privacy Coalition. The NCC members believe signing this
pledge would be a mistake, and cite some of the problems with the
"Fair Information Practices" concepts:

"Notice": Requiring websites to post a privacy policy concerning how
information is collected and used is, at best, unnecessary. Consumers
concerned about their privacy can and do already choose to avoid sites
that don't post this information. Producing the required legalese,
meanwhile, would impose high costs on online vendors, which would
either pass costs on to consumers, or in the case of smaller
businesses, price them out of the market, thereby reducing consumer

"Consent": Decreeing that customers must be able to "opt-out" or must
affirmatively "opt-in" to information collection practices also places
cost burdens which are passed on to consumers in the form of higher
prices and fewer choices. Consumers already can and should choose with
whom they want to share personal information online.

"Access" and "Security": Forcing commercial sites to allow customers
access to the information collected about them and the opportunity to
change, correct or delete that information would be complicated and
costly to merchants and consumers alike. Just as troubling is that
access and a fourth principle, security, are at odds. Requiring
companies to keep accessible personal information about consumers
online leaves the information that much more susceptible to
dissemination via both error and hacker.

The federal government can best protect individual and consumer
privacy by keeping a tight rein on its own extensive surveillance and
information-swapping practices, and by forsaking the temptation to
mandate further collection of consumer information by a national
Internet sales-tax scheme or other means.

Consumers particularly concerned about privacy can and should make use
of free and pay services to anonymize their online activities and stay
abreast of the policies of websites with which they choose to do
business (the P3P standards set to go online later this year should
make this even easier). The National Consumer Coalition trusts
consumers, not Congress, to decide for themselves which privacy
practices best serve their individualized needs. The only thing
federal dictats can do for consumers is raise costs and limit choice.
                                                                                    --30 -

Citizen, consumer, and policy groups of the NCC Privacy Group:

Citizens Against Government Waste

Citizens for a Sound Economy

Competitive Enterprise Institute 

Consumer Alert


   February 12, 2001
     The Privacy Pledge Sets Standard for Privacy Proposals in Congress
   WASHINGTON, DC -- The Privacy Coalition, a nonpartisan coalition of
   consumer, civil liberties, educational, library, labor, and
   family-based groups, presented "The Privacy Pledge" - the standard for
   future protection of privacy. Privacy is the major social issue of the
   information society and the top technology issue in the 107th
   Member groups of The Privacy Coalition include: the American
   Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, American
   Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Center for Media Education, Computer
   Professionals for Social Responsibility, Consumer Federation of
   America, Consumer Project on Technology, Consumers Union, Eagle Forum,
   Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), International Union,
   United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of
   America (UAW), Junkbusters, Media Access Project, National Consumers
   League, Privacy Foundation, Privacy International, Privacy Rights
   Clearinghouse, Privacy Times, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group
   The Privacy Coalition invites members of federal and state
   legislatures to sign the pledge and thus protect one of the most
   important rights of Americans. The provisions of the pledge outline
   the necessary steps for future steps to protect privacy.
   The Privacy Pledge reads as follows:
     The Privacy Pledge
     Privacy is one of America's most fundamental values.
     The Fourth Amendment states that "The right of the people to be
     secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against
     unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated." In
     addition, the U.S. has adopted many laws protecting Americans from
     privacy invasive practices by both the public and private sectors.
     Recognizing the need to protect this essential freedom, I, (insert
     Member's name), pledge to my constituents in (State and District)
     and to the American people that I will support a privacy framework
     to safeguard the rights of Americans in this information age.
     This framework includes:
     1. the Fair Information Practices: the right to notice, consent,
     security, access, correction, use limitations, and redress when
     information is improperly used,
     2. independent enforcement and oversight,
     3. promotion of genuine Privacy Enhancing Technologies that limit
     the collection of personal information and legal restrictions on
     surveillance technologies such as those used for locational
     tracking, video surveillance, electronic profiling, and workplace
     monitoring, and
     4. a solid foundation of federal privacy safeguards that permit the
     private sector and states to implement supplementary protections as
   The Privacy Pledge was publicly presented in the First Amendment
   Lounge of the National Press Club in Washington, DC on Monday,
   February 12, at 9:30 a.m.
   American Association of Law Libraries
   (202) 662-9200
   American Library Association
   Washington Office
   (202) 628-8410
   American Civil Liberties Union
   (202) 544-1681
   Center for Media Education
   (202) 331-7833
   Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
   (650) 322-3778
   Consumer Federation of America
   (202) 387-6121
   Consumer Project on Technology
   (202) 387-8030
   Consumers Union
   (202) 462-6262
   Eagle Forum
   (202) 544-0353
   Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
   (202) 483-1140
   International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural
   Implement Workers of America (UAW)
   (202) 828-8500
   (908) 753-7861
   Media Access Project
   (202) 232-4300
   National Consumers League
   (202) 835-3323
   Privacy Foundation
   (303) 871-4971
   Privacy International
   Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
   (619) 298-3396
   Privacy Times
   (202) 829-3660
   U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)
   (202) 546-9707
                                   - 30 -


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