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GILC Alert
Volume 6, Issue 4

June 6, 2002


Welcome to the Global Internet Liberty Campaign Newsletter.


Welcome to GILC Alert, the newsletter of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign. We are an international organization of groups working for cyber-liberties, who are determined to preserve civil liberties and human rights on the Internet.

We hope you find this newsletter interesting, and we very much hope that you will avail yourselves of the action items in future issues.

If you are a part of an organization that would be interested in joining GILC, please contact us at

If you are aware of threats to cyber liberties that we may not know about, please contact the GILC members in your country, or contact GILC as a whole.

Please feel free to redistribute this newsletter to appropriate forums.

Free expression

[1] US courts issue key Net speech rulings
[2] Russian Net speech curbs debated
[3] New legal battles over deep weblinks
[4] Turkish Internet restrictions draw fire
[5] Jordan jails online dissenter
[6] Mystery surrounds end to Chinese blocking of news sites
[7] Court refuses to throw out charges in Russian E-Book case
[8] Study recommends education, not Net blockers
[9] US Congress considers new virtual images ban
[10] Egypt clamps down on Internet speech
[11] Daniel Pearl video back online
[12] Report: marker trick fools crippled CDs


[13] Euro data retention decision provokes alarm
[14] New US gov't rules may allow massive Internet spying
[15] US gov't investigates Verichip tracking implants maker
[16] Euro regulators probe Microsoft privacy woes
[17] US Net privacy bill passes important hurdle
[18] Interactive TV privacy fears grow
[19] US cell phone tracking scheme still on hold

[1] US courts issue key Net speech rulings

The future of Internet free speech was the focus of several recent court decisions in the United States.

One of these cases involved the so-called Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which made it a crime to use the Internet to pass along "for commercial purposes" information considered "harmful to minors." The statute was enacted in response to the 1997 Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Communications Decency Act and applied traditional free speech protections to the Information Superhighway. COPA was soon challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-a GILC member) on behalf of 17 groups and individuals, including fellow GILC members the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Electronic Frontiers Foundation.

The U.S. Supreme Court's subsequent ruling reflected deep divisions among the Justices regarding various aspects of the case. Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the majority opinion, held that "COPA's reliance on community standards to identify 'material that is harmful to minors' does not by itself render the statute substantially overbroad" and therefore violate the U.S. constitutional free speech protections. However, Thomas added that the scope of this decision was "quite limited" and that the Court was not sure whether COPA might be an unconstitutional restriction on free expression for other reasons. Citing these reasons, the Court maintained a ban on COPA enforcement and sent the case back to a lower appeals court for further examination of these issues. The case could go on for several more years before a final resolution.

Several weeks later, a U.S. trial court struck down the Children's Internet Protection Act, which essentially required high schools and libraries to include blocking software on their computers. Institutions that refused to do so (or implement policies to that effect) would have lose federal funding. In a court challenge launched by the ACLU and the American Library Association, a Federal judicial panel held that the law violated the right to free expression protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "Any public library that adheres to CIPA's conditions will necessarily restrict patrons' access to a substantial amount of protected speech in violation of the First Amendment." The panel also called blocking programs "blunt instruments that not only 'underblock,' i.e., fail to block access to substantial amounts of content that the library boards wish to exclude, but also, central to this litigation, 'overblock,' i.e., block access to large quantities of material that library boards do not wish to exclude and that is constitutionally protected."

The text of the COPA decision is available under

The text of the CIPA decision is available under

An ACLU press release about the COPA decision is posted at

For more on the COPA ruling, see "US child porn law 'not enforceable'," BBC News Online, May 14, 2002 at

See also Charles Lane, "Justices Partially Back Cyber Pornography Law," Washington Post, May 14, 2002, page A3 at

Further coverage of the CIPA ruling is available from "Judges Overturn Porn Law,", May 31, 2002 at

See also Lisa M. Bowman, "Court overturns library filtering law," CNet News, May 31, 2002 at

[2] Russian Net speech curbs debated

A new Russian government proposal to target "extremist" messages is being greeted with dismay from free speech advocates.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a draft law (No. 203307-3) that supposedly targets extremist activities. However, the proposal contains a broad definition of include attempts to impede lawful activities of state powers and organizers of mass disorder-which, in turn, may cover many forms of public protest. The plan goes on to say that "information-telecommunication networks" may not be used for any extremist activity; the proposal specifically mentions websites. The draft law also bans the posting of any extremist slogans online. Internet service providers (ISPs) or moderators are required to remove such materials immediately. This requirement would be enforced through a somewhat complicated procedure by which government prosecutors and judges can successively order relevant third parties (such as ISPs) to take down offending material, or risk losing their licenses.

Experts suggest that the draft law is part of a disturbing trend against freedom of expression over the Information Superhighway. These observers have cited to legislation currently being discussed by the Russian legislature (Duma) that, among other things, would ban materials that merely contain quotations from alleged terrorists and specifically mentions computer networks.

To read the text of the draft law, click

For comments on the draft law from Sergei Smirnov of the Russian Human Rights Network (a GILC member), see

For additional expert analysis from Alexander Verkhovsky, visit

[3] New legal battles over deep weblinks

Should the law require people to provide weblinks to only the front pages of websites?

That's essentially the question being posed by several recent cases. In such incident, the Danish Newspaper Publishers' Association is suing Newsbooster, an online news service. Specifically, the trade group is asking a court to bar the service from providing so-called deep links to individual Danish newspaper articles. Experts have criticized this action, claiming that it will chill free speech and severely curb the effectiveness of the Information Superhighway. A spokesperson for the Lycos Denmark portal accused the Association of essentially trying to "turn time back and remove the Internet. Deep-linking is the nature of the Internet. It is without question the killer application for the World Wide Web."

Meanwhile, two broadly similar disputes have arisen in the United States. Recently, the publisher of the Dallas Morning News threatening a webpage author with a lawsuit over his Internet links to individual DMN articles. Since then, the publisher of Runner's World magazine made similar demands against the proprietors of the site, telling them to remove links to a printer-friendly version of a Runner's World item.

See Declan McCullagh, "Another Run to a Deep-Link Suit," Wired News, May 14, 2002 at,1294,52514,00.html

Read Michelle Delio, "Deep Links Return to Surface," Wired News, April 18, 2002 at,1294,51887,00.html

[4] Turkish Internet restrictions may limit Net speech

Turkey has passed legislation that some experts fear will curb free speech online.

Among other things, the new rules bar defamation along the Information Superhighway as well as distribution of "false news." Violators could be forced to pay steep fines. In addition, the proposal could enable the state radio and television board, RTUK, to begin vetting websites. The RTUK already has the power to impose penalties for a variety of content-related activities, including airing Kurdish-language broadcasts and publishing what it deems to be separatist propaganda.

While the precise impact of these directives is still being determined, a number of observers worry that the legislation's provisions will be used against journalists, online discussion groups and other types of Internet expression. These concerns have been highlighted by several recent cases where government regulators have fined or shutdown websites on such charges as "mocking and insulting state institutions" or slighting the military. Reporters Sans Frontieres secretary-general Robert Menard charged that the new "measures fly in the face of the commitments to freedom of expression that Turkey has made to the European Union. We deplore this seriously repressive turn by the Turkish regime in this domain."

For more information, visit the RSF website under

[5] Jordan jails online dissenter

A Jordanian politician who expressed concern over apparent government corruption has been thrown in prison.

Toujan el-Faisal was Jordan's first-ever female parliament member. This past March, she wrote an open letter that was published on the Arab Times website, which is hosted in the United States. In the letter, she railed against government corruption, saying that it could damage relations with the Jordanian public. She also claimed that the country's prime minister had made money off a government decree that doubled car insurance rates throughout the Middle Eastern kingdom. Soon afterwards, Jordanian authorities charged her with damaging the state's reputation and sentenced her to 18 months in prison-a sentence that cannot be appealed.

Free speech advocates have objected strongly to these moves. Robert Menard from Reporters Sans Frontieres said his group was "outraged" by the court's decision and could not accept "the imprisonment of someone for simply expressing an opinion on the Internet."

An RSF press release on this subject is posted under

Read Julia Scheeres, "Jordan Punishes Net Critic," Wired News, May 17, 2002 at,1294,52631,00.html

[6] Mystery surrounds end to Chinese blocking of news sites

Chinese citizens are now able to access several foreign news sites that had been blocked by the government. But the reason why the restrictions have been partially lifted, and how long this new state of affairs will continue, remains an open question.

For years, Chinese users were prevented to visiting the Internet sites of CNN, the Washington Post and many others. However, earlier this month, these constraints were lifted for various selected webpages. Thus, while cybernauts in the Land of the Dragon are now able to read the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe online, they are still not able to view CNN, the BBC or Time Magazine via the World Wide Web. This development came with virtually no fanfare from Beijing; so far, the Chinese government has refused to comment on these changes.

It is unclear whether this limited respite from web censorship will last. In October 2001, there was a somewhat similar easing of Internet restrictions that coincided with an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting being held in Shanghai. The restrictions were put back into place shortly after the meeting ended.

Meanwhile, the fate of several Chinese citizens who were jailed for their Internet activities remains in doubt. Huang Qi, for example, was arrested after he created a website to help the families and friends of Tiananmen massacre victims. Huang was tried in secret last summer, and the verdict has still yet to be revealed. Similarly, Wang Jinbo, who protested against government repression of Tiananmen pro-democracy activists, remains in prison, where he has been for the past two years.

For further details and analysis, visit the Digital Freedom Network (DFN-a GILC member) website under

Read "News Web site blocks lifted," South China Morning Post, May 17, 2002 at

See also "China lifts blocks on Net wall," Reuters, May 16, 2002 at

For more information in Spanish (Espanol), see "China desbloqueo el acceso a medios extranjeros,", May 17, 2002 at

For additional details on the Huang Qi and Wang Jinbo cases, read Vivien Pik-Kwan Chan, "Amnesty says 200 still in prison over June 4," South China Morning Post, May 31, 2002 at

[7] Court refuses to throw out charges in Russian E-Book case

A Russian software company will continue to face criminal charges based on a controversial United States copyright law.

Elcomsoft is accused of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which restricts the right of computer users to circumvent any program that "effectively controls access" to copyrighted works. Last year, Elcomsoft employee Dmitry Sklyarov had developed a program that circumvents the copy protection scheme contained on Adobe Systems electronic books. He had created the program as part of a project to allow E-Book readers to view such products on whatever computers they like.

Presiding judge Ronald Whyte has refused to throw out the charges agaist Elcomsoft, claiming that although computer programs should be treated as speech, the DMCA did not violate free expression protections because it did not intend to regulate content, but merely the functioning of a program. Cindy Cohn from the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF-a GILC member) criticized Whyte's reasoning: "It's as if the judge ruled that Congress can ban the sale of printing presses, because the First Amendment right to publish speech was not attacked directly and quills and ink are still available. What good are the public's rights if the tools needed to make fair use or access works in the public domain are illegal?"

The Elcomsoft trial is expected to begin on August 26, 2002.

An EFF press release on this subject is posted under

Read Steven Bonisteel, "August 26 Trial Date Set For E-book Cracking Case," Newsbytes, May 21, 2002 at

[8] Study recommends education, not Net blockers

A new report suggests education rather than Internet blocking software as a better way to protect children online.

The study, entitled "Youth, Pornography and the Internet," was commissioned by a subunit of the United States National Research Council. The authors of the paper note that it has been very difficult to formulate definitions for inappropriate online content without adversely affecting free speech rights. Furthermore, computer blocking packages tended to exacerbate this problem: "An approach based on machine-executable rules abstracted from human judgments inevitably misses nuances in those human judgments, which reduces the accuracy of this approach compared to that of humans, while the presumption-based approach necessarily identifies a large volume of appropriate material as inappropriate."

In end, the researchers recommended that there should be more education of minors "about reasons not to access inappropriate material. ... An analogy is the relationship between swimming pools and children. Swimming pools can be dangerous for children. To protect them, one can install locks, put up fences and deploy pool alarms ... but by far the most important thing one can do for one's children is to teach them to swim."

The study is available online under

Read "Protecting Kids From Internet Porn,", May 2, 2002 at

[9] US Congress considers new virtual images ban

Politicians in the United States are looking to pass legislation in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding virtual computer images.

The Court had struck down the so-called Child Pornography Protection Act (CPPA), which included a strict ban on any image that "appears to be" or "conveys the impression" of someone under 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct. This ban applied even in instances where no model was used and the given picture was completely fictitious. The high Court held that the Act violated the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and that the statute "prohibits speech despite its serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. The statute proscribes the visual depiction of an idea-that of teenagers engaging in sexual activity-that is a fact of modern society and has been a theme in art and literature throughout the ages."

In response, several U.S. politicians have introduced measures that have apparently strong similarities with the CPPA. One such measure, which was unveiled by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and a number of U.S. Congressmen, includes a ban on images that are "virtually indistinguishable from that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct." The U.S. House of Representatives may hold a markup session for a version of this bill as early as this week.

The text of the Ashcroft proposal is posted under

Read Declan McCullagh, "Round Two on 'Morphed' Child Porn," Wired News, May 3, 2002 at,1294,52285,00.html

See David McGuire, "Lawmakers Take Another Shot At 'Morphed' Kid Porn,", May 1, 2002 at

[10] Egypt clamps down on Internet speech

The Egyptian government has arrested several individuals after they each posted materials online regarding various controversial subjects.

In one case, Shohdi Surur published a poem written by his father that critiqued the country's way of life. Egyptian officials then arrested and prosecuted Surur, who could be sentenced to 2 years in prison pending the outcome of his trial. "I'm not scared of the case as such," explained Surur, "I'm scared of living under a horrendous violent regime. All of us are being watched all the time. Where is this leading to?"

Surur's comments were an apparent reference to government surveillance efforts against people who wish to express themselves online. Law enforcement agents have admitted to conducting such operations for several years. One topic that is sure to attract attention from Egyptian authorities is homosexuality, which is essentially banned in the Middle Eastern country through a patchwork of laws, although not explicitly mentioned. To wit, a website that deals with homosexual topics has posted the following advisory: "Guess who's watching? Egyptian State Security!"

See "Busted! Cyberspace-Scouring Cops Accused of Suppressing Online Expression," Associated Press, May 21, 2002 at

[11] Daniel Pearl video back online

An Internet service provider has restored an online video file that had been taken down at the behest of the United States government.

The file was an unedited video showing the murder of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who had been abducted while working in Pakistan. It had been posted on, a private website hosted by a company in the United States. Several weeks ago, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) sent a letter to several Internet companies, including Pro Hosting, claiming that the file was obscene and that it could lead to prosecution on criminal obscenity grounds. Pro Hosting initially talked with's proprietor and removed the video from public view; however, after consulting with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-a GILC member), it decided to make the controversial file available again. The webhost's owner, Ted Hickman, commented that his organization had "decided to take the hot seat in this position, mainly because we and believe strongly in freedom of speech and freedom of press." He added that the video was "definitely something that I think people should be able to view if they choose to."

The decision came as the FBI signaled that, in the words of one ACLU spokesperson, "they did not intend to put pressure on websites to not show the video, nor do they intend legal action." Indeed, experts had questioned whether the file was actually illegal, since Federal obscenity laws target materials of a sexual nature, rather than the violence depicted in the video. Moreover, attempts to stifle the distribution of the file already had been frustrated, as it had become widely available from many other places along the Information Superhighway.

Read Declan McCullagh, "Besieged ISP Restores Pearl Vid," Wired News, May 28, 2002 at,1283,52818,00.html

[12] Marker trick fools crippled CDs

Think it's tough to break through the copy-protection contained on compact discs? You might want to think again.

Researchers have discovered that the copy protection schemes of Sony Music CDs can be bypassed with a few swabs from an ink marker. These discs are designed to trick computer CD-ROM drives into reading an extra track of meaningless information, usually at the outer edge, rather than scanning the music files. It has been reported that this feature has even caused some computers (especially Macintosh machines) to malfunction. However, if the meaningless data track is covered over with ink or even a carefully placed post-it note, the CDs can be played in computer without a hitch. Some experts claim that this technique can applied successfully to other so-called "crippleware" CDs, including non-Sony discs.

These developments come as the United States Congress considers a bill that would require the installation of copy protection routines within new consumer electronic products. The bill has heightened public concern that such schemes will stifle the ability of individuals to make fair use of copyrighted works. One user quipped, "I wonder what type of copy protection will come next? Maybe they'll ban markers."

See "Cheap pen cracks 'copy-proof' CD," Reuters, May 20, 2002 at

For the text of the United States Congress mandatory copy protection bill, click

[13] Euro data retention decision provokes alarm

Critics have savaged the European Parliament's adoption of a law that permits data retention for police purposes.

A recently approved European Union Directive will allow national governments to introduce legislation that will (a) require telecommunications companies to retain traffic and localization data about their customers and (b) give law enforcement agents access to this data. The type of information to be collected under this scheme could include such items as web surfing histories, email trails, fax logs, credit card numbers with holders' names, callers' and recipients' names, connection times, chatroom user IDs, and the geographic locations of individual mobile phones. In the past, such information could only be retained for billing purposes, then discarded; under the new rules, the data could be kept for an indeterminate period. Although the Directive does contain references to several human rights agreements, it does not require specific measures be taken to protect those rights.

The decision came despite heavy opposition from various quarters. The Global Internet Liberty Campaign issued a letter urging the EP "to vote against general and exploratory data retention of individuals' electronic communications by law enforcement authorities. ... Wide data retention powers for law enforcement authorities, especially if they were used on a routine basis and on a large part of the population, could have disastrous consequences for the most sensitive and confidential types of personal data." Thousands of individual Internet users from around the world signed on to this letter, while similar objections were aired by a number of EP members, including Ilka Schroeder and Marco Cappato. The battle will now shift to the legislatures of the constituent national governments. Implementation of the Directive could take two to five years.

For more information, visit the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC-a GILC member) website under

To read a European Commission press release on the EP vote, visit|0|RAPID&lg=EN&display=

The aforementioned GILC letter is posted under

If you wish to sign the GILC letter, click

Read Stuart Millar, "Europe votes to end data privacy," The Guardian, May 31, 2002 at,7369,725204,00.html

See "European 'spying' laws savaged," BBC News Online, May 30, 2002 at

Read "EU vote relaxes e-privacy rules," Reuters, May 31, 2002 at

Further analysis is available from the Statewatch website under

[14] New US gov't rules may allow massive Internet spying

Despite past mistakes, the United States government officials have decided to expand their law enforcement powers along the Information Superhighway.

On May 30, 2002, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft issued guidelines (effective immediately) on how the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Justice Department conduct investigations. Among other things, these revised standards will allow government agents to monitor Internet postings when there is no evidence that the authors of the postings are involved in crime. The measures will also permit FBI and Justice Department officials to buy information from data mining firms, thereby allowing the government to gather a myriad of personal information on private individuals. The plan will loosen time restrictions, thereby allowing the FBI to conduct full investigations for up to one year even when there is no evidence of a crime.

Many groups have criticized these moves, pointing out that the now-discarded rules had been created to protect the privacy of ordinary Americans. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-a GILC member) noted that "any time you write a check, use a credit card, buy something on credit, make department store purchases, surf the web, use an e-z pass to buy gasoline or pay a toll, the FBI may be permitted, under the new guidelines, to purchase this information to build a profile on you. ... This is an invitation for a fishing operation."

Ironically, the changes came not long after several documents appeared revealing that the FBI has already abused its powers by collecting information on ordinary law-abiding individuals. These papers were disclosed to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC-a GILC member), which had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for materials in connection with the FBI's much-derided Internet spytool known by its old name, Carnivore. The documents included the text of an internal FBI email message that revealed how, in one case, Carnivore managed to gather so much information on innocent parties that a distraught FBI technician deleted nearly all of the collected data, including what was relevant to the given investigation. EPIC General Counsel David Sobel said that the documents "confirm what many of us have believed for two years-Carnivore is a powerful but clumsy tool that endangers the privacy of innocent American citizens. Our FOIA lawsuit shows that there's a great deal about Carnivore that we still don't know."

To read the new Attorney General guidelines, click

For an ACLU analysis of these guidelines, click

Read Julian Borger, "Shamed FBI's snooping powers increased," The Guardian, May 31, 2002 at,7369,725155,00.html

See "New FBI Rules Not Welcomed By All," CBS News, May 31, 2002 at

Read Bill Miller, "Ashcroft: Old Rules Aided Terrorists," Washington Post, May 31, 2002, page A13 at

The latest documents regarding Carnivore spyware problems are available from the EPIC website under

Read Stefanie Olsen, "Documents reveal Carnivore deficiencies," CNet News, May 28, 2002 at

See also D. Ian Hopper, "Memo Reveals FBI E-Mail Snafu," Associated Press, May 29, 2002 at

[15] US gov't investigates Verichip tracking implants maker

The manufacturers of a controversial tracking device designed to be implanted under a person's skin are now under heightened scrutiny from United States government regulators.

Verichip--a device that can carry individualized data (such as a person's name, current condition, medical records and unique identification number) and is designed to be imbedded under a person's skin. When a special external scanner is pointed at a Verichip, "a number is displayed by the scanner" and the stored information is transmitted "via telephone or Internet." Verichip's maker, Applied Digital Systems (ADS), is marketing its product for such purposes as "identification, various law enforcement and defense uses and search and rescue." Company officials are looking to expand the program to include Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to allow Verichip recipients to be tracked via the Internet.

Privacy advocates had already expressed serious concerns about the device. As David Sobel from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC-a GILC member) pointed out: "The problem here is that you have something here that is going to be permanently implanted in people, and once that happens, I think there is going to be a real challenge to make sure that only that original intended use is made of that technology."

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now launched a probe into whether ADS' activities and claims violated Federal law. Previously, the FDA had said it would not to regulate Verichips, so long as the devices were used for identification purposes. However, ADS then claimed it had received formal FDA approval, and encoded the first implanted Verichips with medical information (such as the recipients' allergies to various medications), which provoked the FDA inquiry.

For the latest details, see Jim Goldman, "FDA Launches Investigation Into Verichip," Tech TV, May 17, 2002 at

For more on ADS' financial problems, see Joanna Glasner, "Stock Woes for Chip Implanter," Wired News, May 16, 2002 at,1294,52499,00.html

First Verichip under-skin tracking implants performed

See "Fla. Family Takes Computer Chip Trip," CBS News, May 10, 2002 at

[16] Euro regulators probe Microsoft privacy woes

European government officials have launched a probe into how the world's leading manufacturer of computer operating systems handles user information.

The European Commission probe will focus on Microsoft's .Net Passport user authentication service, which the company intends to be a central repository for such personal information as birthdates and credit card numbers. According to one EC official, "The Commission is...looking into this as a matter of priority, in concentration with national data protection authorities, as regards the system's compatibility (or not) with EU data protection law." The investigation was revealed in a response to Erik Meijer, a European Parliament member, who had expressed concern over how difficult it is for individuals to unsubscribe from Passport and how many websites refused to deal with non-Passport users.

The decision was applauded by many privacy and consumer advocates. Simon Davies from Privacy International (a GILC member) pointed out that there are "profound implications about the flow of information across the world and the privacy stakes are too high to allow Microsoft to control the standard." Indeed, several organizations, including GILC members the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Net Action, had filed formal papers with the United States government regulators regarding the potential detrimental impact that Microsoft Windows XP could have on individual privacy. More recently, Microsoft has admitted to a series of security flaws in its Exchange email and Internet Explorer programs, further heightening fears that the software giant is not doing enough to protect its users' personal data.

Read "Microsoft under privacy investigation," BBC News Online, May 27, 2002 at

See also "MS privacy policies under EU probe," Reuters, May 26, 2002 at

For more background information on Microsoft privacy concerns, visit the EPIC website under

See David Becker, "Microsoft Exchange hole 'critical'," CNet News, May 29, 2002 at

See also Robert Vamosi, "Will IE patch open new holes?" ZDNet News, May 22, 2002 at

[17] US Net privacy bill passes important hurdle

A United States comprehensive online privacy standards proposal has passed an important test.

A U.S. Senate committee has approved the Online Personal Privacy Act, which, among other things, would require Internet companies to get prior consent from customers before collecting or disseminating sensitive personal information about them. This category of data would include details such as political affiliations, religious beliefs, ethnicity and medical histories. The legislation would also require companies to provide "clear and conspicuous notice" to consumers about their personal data will be handled, and allow users to sue violators in civil court.

A number of cyberlibertarians hope that the Act will encourage firms to their privacy procedures. Lee Tien from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF-a GILC member) noted the importance of forcing companies to be held accountable for their online personal data practices: "One of the basic elements of any kind of privacy protection is the ability for people to sue or for serious government agencies to sue and therefore cause the company to really do something about privacy. Otherwise, it's just words."

See "Bitter battle over online privacy bill," Reuters, May 17, 2002 at

For background information, see "Hollings puts together Net privacy bill," CNet News, April 18, 2002 at

[18] Interactive TV privacy fears grow

Several recent incidents have privacy concerns among users of interactive television systems.

One of these incidents involves SonicBlue's ReplayTV, which allows consumers to record television programs on a hard drive, send them to friends through the Internet, and fast-forward past commercials. SonicBlue is fighting a court order that would require the company to turn over information about the viewing habits of ReplayTV users. The order came as part of a lawsuit launched by several major media companies, including AOL Time Warner, Disney, NBC, and CBS, who claim that the device's adherents are violating copyright laws.

The ruling drew fierce criticism from privacy groups. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) attorney Megan Gray warned that "whether unpopular, controversial or sexually explicit, if they knew that an electronic record would be created, in perpetuity, about their viewing choices. A person's home is one of the most sacred of private places. The studios have no right to intrude there to collect data for their own purposes without the individual's consent." Subsequently, a Federal judge in the United States overturned the order.

An EPIC friend-of-the-court brief on this subject is available in PDF format under

To read a SonicBlue press release about the latest ruling, click

Read Tiffany Kary, "Viewing secrets are safe with Sonicblue," CNet News, June 3, 2002 at

[19] US cell phone tracking scheme still on hold

A plan to track people using their cellular telephones continues to meet with delays and frustration.

For several years, the United States government has pushed a scheme known as "Enhanced 911." Under this scheme, mobile phone companies are required to install technology allowing government agents to locate cellular users within 100 meters. The tracking is done by triangulating the emissions given off by a particular phone between different signal towers. Service providers who fail to comply with these rules may face heavy fines.

A number of experts have expressed fears that this new tracking scheme will seriously erode individual privacy. Meanwhile, numerous technical headaches and high costs have severely hampered E911 implementation. Several cellular phone carriers have said that they will not able to comply with upcoming U.S. Federal Communications Commission deadlines, and at least one firm has suggested that it may be forced to abandon their E911 network altogether.

Read Ben Charny, "Last chance for E911 technology," CNet News, May 29, 2002 at


The GILC News Alert is the newsletter of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign, an international coalition of organizations working to protect and enhance online civil liberties and human rights. Organizations are invited to join GILC by contacting us at

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