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The Cutting Edge

Senate Booklet Details Net Privacy Protection Tools

September 21, 2000|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) on Wednesday touted "identity scrubbers," self-destructing e-mail and other online privacy protection tools as an alternative to stepped-up policing of the Web.

Releasing a consumer guide to state-of-the-art ways to curb personal data giveaways, Hatch said protecting online privacy was a "very hot issue and it's going to get hotter."

"We've got to find a way to live with it--and that ain't easy," he said, referring to the lack of consensus in Congress over updating privacy laws for the digital age.

The 31-page handbook, "Know the Rules, Use the Tools," says many consumers mistakenly believe their conduct on the Internet is anonymous. In fact, the vast majority of Web sites collect personally identifiable information from visitors, notably by placing electronic tags called "cookies" on their hard drives, the booklet pointed out.

Cookies may store names, credit card numbers, e-mail addresses, shopping preferences and more based on technology that tracks Web surfing. Firms use such data for targeted marketing, customizing sites and gathering data for resale.

The handbook was released at a technology fair in Washington that showcased many of the new products described in the booklet. .

The Senate panel's staff said it was not endorsing any of the specific technologies detailed in the booklet, which is available at http://judiciary.senate.gov/privacy.htm.

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