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.

Pick Your Privacy Problem

Jul 27 2001 08:47 AM PDT

Here is the latest from lawmakers, privacy officers, advocacy groups and judges.

Today’s media bring a fine overview of the state of the battles over privacy in the information economy. A House subcommittee invited bricks-and-mortar privacy execs to a hearing, privacy groups detailed their plans to complain to the Federal Trade Commission about Microsoft XP, and a respected judge questioned the widespread belief that employers have unlimited power to snoop on employees’ computers.

First to Congress. The House subcommittee on commerce, trade and consumer protection invited the chief privacy officers of GM, Proctor & Gamble, IBM, and other mainstream companies to comment on what sorts of privacy regulations Congress should consider, if any. On one point the privacy officers agreed unanimously, according to AP and the Financial Times: Any privacy legislation ought not to single out companies doing business on the Internet. The FT quoted committee chair Billy Tauzin thus: “We cannot and will not design some elaborate new privacy regime that will take into account every possible daydream of how information could be used.”

Yesterday the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Junkbusters, the Privacy Foundation and others held a press conference to lay out their beefs with Microsoft’s upcoming Windows XP. The groups are worried about both Microsoft’s desire to control the chokepoint for much sensitive personal data on Net users, and the company’s apparent lack of ability to protect such data online. OS Opinion laid out the timeline for Windows XP’s release to underscore the urgency of the privacy organizations’ moves.

Finally, the New York Times’ Cyber Law Journal feature covered the increasingly common opinion that employees have little or no right to privacy when using their companies’ computers. Carl S. Kaplan spotlighted an article by an influential U.S. District Court chief judge who seeks to get fellow jurists to rethink workplace privacy. Who will get there first, judges or legislators?

How Do Businesses Use Customer Information: Is the Customer’s Privacy Protected?
House Commerce Committee

Top companies press internet privacy concerns
Financial Times

Execs Want Privacy Policy for All (AP)

Privacy group details complaints against XP

Privacy Groups Fight To Delay Windows XP Release
OSO Opinion

Reconsidering the Privacy of Office Computers
New York Times