Computers Freedom and Privacy

May 5 21:00 2002 Mike Banks Valentine Print This Article

Last week I attended the ... Freedom & Privacy ... where I heard four days of ... and debate ... ... leaders, ... and privacy ... over issu

Last week I attended the Computers,Guest Posting Freedom & Privacy (CFP2002)
conference where I heard four days of discussion and debate from
attorneys, corporate leaders, politicians and privacy advocates
over issues of civil liberties, privacy and commerce.

I've come away from that very enlightening conference with a
rather pessimistic conclusion -- That Sun Microsystems CEO Scott
McNealy was correct when he said, "You have zero privacy anyway,"
to a group of reporters in January of 1999, but I stop FAR short
of McNealy's suggestion that we should . . . "Get over it." On
the contrary, I suggest we all consider getting ON it and taking
a wild ride to protect what little privacy we have remaining and
attempt to regain the ground lost since September 11.

The worst thing for privacy from 9/11 beyond the innocent deaths
was the call for a national ID card from our good friend Larry
Ellison and echoed by less enlightened members of congress. That
concept was discussed in great detail at the CFP2002 conference
by Andrew Schulman. I highly recommend you visit the following
site for more information on the futility of that idea. Schulman
is a software litigation consultant. Click on the top link under
"recent work" for his paper on the so-called border crossing
card with direct relevance to a National ID card.

California State Senator Jackie Speier spoke at the conference
on her legislation SB773, which seeks dramatic curbs on
financial institution's efforts to sell private Californians'
financial information to other companies. Californians have a
fighting chance at preserving privacy since we have Senator
Speier working to pass privacy initiatives in the state senate.

But I don't see any serious national privacy advocates within
the federal government since most listen when money talks before
they listen to public opinion. Although there is furious
activity, there is no clear leader on the issue as discussed
in the following ComputerWorld article.,1199,NAV47_STO61707,00.html

The USA Patriot Act had, at it's heart, national security and
protection from terrorism as clearly laudable goals, but some
unintended consequences leeched on to suck away some freedoms
when politicians used emotion above reason to attach some
privacy eroding amendments to it.

We do, however have organizations fighting for privacy on the
national level. They are the Electronic Privacy Information
Center @

Consumer Action @

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse @

Jason Catlett's JunkBusters @

Each are working hard to protect the public privacy interest.

There were sessions on medical privacy, financial privacy, web
anonymity, national ID cards, constitutional freedoms and a
gripping discussion on the "Digital Divide" from Larry Irving,
the technology activist that coined the term. Speaking were IT
leaders from healthcare organizations, CEO's and Vice Presidents
from major corporations, privacy advocates from respected organ-
izations, attorneys and politicians of every stripe.

A universal concern among speakers and participants was the lack
of consumer and public discourse and education on privacy issues.
The public shows nearly universal disregard for intrusions into
privacy until they are personally threatened with exposure of
their own private personally identifiable information.

One telling example cited was a comment from an audience member
during a Q and A period following a panel discussion where he
noted that convenience is the friend of privacy intrusions. He
stated flatly that the idea that we don't like being targeted
is wrong. We love being targeted until we start to realize that
it is happening, then our concern rises dramatically. This in
reference to how "cookies" make our web surfing experience
faster and easier when we are recoginized by sites we've been
to before, filling in personal data by referencing the cookies
set on previous visits.

It was agreed that it takes a major blunder by business where
privacy information is violated, sold or mutilated before public
outcry leads to privacy policy enforcement or action. Last week
when YAHOO! changed their privacy policy to allow email, snail
mail or even phone calls from it's "partners" there was a small
fuss raised by online privacy advocates. Unfortunately even the
TRUSTe seal program went along with YAHOO! on that blunder by
approving the move and allowing continued seal program approval.

I hope that Oracle CEO, Larry Ellison is wrong when he says,
"Privacy is already gone." The conference was reassuring in
that it became clear that there are advocates for reasoned
discourse and measured action on most important privacy issues.

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Mike Banks Valentine
Mike Banks Valentine

Mike Banks Valentine Moderates the I-Privacy Discussion List
Protecting Privacy is Good for Business

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