This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

It's Privacy Week
Sep 15 2000 12:00 AM PDT

Six separate privacy stories are in the news this week, and CNET responded with four staff-written articles. At least three outlets ran Associated Press privacy stories. Wired News, usually on top of the subject, gave it a rest today. No outlet tried to put everything in perspective, though CNET produced a collection page to link their stories.

On Tuesday the Government Accounting Office issued a report lambasting the (lack of) privacy policies and practices on the government's own Web sites. On Wednesday an international privacy summit opened in Washington, D.C., focusing on the U.S. government's call for industry self-regulation. That same day the Privacy Foundation said Web sites should disclose their use of "Web bugs" to track visitors. And two privacy organizations loudly resigned from (AMZN)'s Associates program to protest the retailer's recent loosening of its privacy policies. CNET covered Microsoft (MSFT)'s recent spate of privacy surprises, including an Internet Explorer bug and an admission that the company tracks visitors across MSN Web properties. Finally, there's an AP story on the increasing ease of identity theft and one on new legislation to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

First to Amazon: Both CNET and the AP got juicy quotes from the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Junkbusters after the groups severed commercial ties with the retailer. EPIC's executive director Marc Rotenberg told the AP, "We are witnessing the slow erosion of online privacy under the industry's self-regulatory approach." The reporters talked to different Amazon spokesman and were told that Amazon's privacy policy is actually stricter now than before. Few outsiders agreed.

The AP's story on identity theft was triggered by an expert's testimony before the House Banking Committee. AP attributed to "the government" the factoid that identity theft is among the fastest-growing crimes in the country, now afflicting 500,000 people annually. The staff of the Banking Committee chairman telephoned information brokers and private investigators around the country to see who would sell them bank-account information. The AP wrote, "In less than three hours, the first 10 companies they reached were willing to sell detailed account data likely only to be obtained through deceptive means. None turned them down." - Keith Dawson

For Amazon, Honesty May Not Be the Best Policy
The Industry Standard

Shining the Privacy Spotlight

Failing the Privacy Test (AP)
ABC News

Privacy Groups Cut Amazon Ties (AP)

Personal Identity Theft on the Rise (AP)
USA Today

Subcommittee Passes Electronic Privacy Bill
USA Today