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Privacy in Digital Era Focus of Policy Summit

August 21, 2000|Associated Press

Privacy is a key topic on the agenda of industry and government leaders attending the sixth annual technology policy summit this week in Colorado sponsored by the nonprofit Progress and Freedom Foundation, which researches the effect of the digital revolution on public policy. Other topics to be discussed at the summit in Aspen include telecommunications deregulation, the future of the Federal Communications Commission and e-commerce. Privacy problems have occurred at several "dot-com" companies, including Toysmart.com and DoubleClick, and the FBI has been criticized for its e-mail surveillance system. DoubleClick, an Internet advertising broker, was criticized for a plan to market a record of Web pages that consumers have visited. It was one of a group of companies whose self-regulating proposal was accepted by the Federal Trade Commission in July. The issue also has played a role in politics, with Democrats approving a platform plank supporting greater online privacy protection through an "Electronic Bill of Rights" sought by Vice President Al Gore. The Republican platform supports allowing high-tech companies to police themselves. A bill by Rep. Thomas M. Davis (R-Va.) would create a federal Office of Information Policy to be headed by a chief information officer appointed by the president. The officer would work with the director of Davis' proposed Office of Information Security and Technical Protection to coordinate federal agencies' information-technology efforts. Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) hopes Congress will move cautiously when considering any privacy policy, especially one that would affect business. But he said industry self-regulation is unlikely to work. The House Government Reform Committee has approved Hutchinson's bill to create a Privacy Protection Commission to study electronic privacy issues and recommend congressional action. He said it would be the first such study in 25 years.

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