PRIVACY Forum Archive Document
PRIVACY Forum Digest Saturday, 14 October 2000 Volume 09 : Issue 21 (http://www.vortex.com/privacy/priv.09.21) Moderated by Lauren Weinstein (email@example.com) Vortex Technology, Woodland Hills, CA, U.S.A. http://www.vortex.com ===== PRIVACY FORUM ===== ------------------------------------------------------------------- The PRIVACY Forum is supported in part by the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Cable & Wireless USA, Cisco Systems, Inc., and Telos Systems. - - - These organizations do not operate or control the PRIVACY Forum in any manner, and their support does not imply agreement on their part with nor responsibility for any materials posted on or related to the PRIVACY Forum. ------------------------------------------------------------------- CONTENTS Election 2000, Privacy, and the Internet (Lauren Weinstein; PRIVACY Forum Moderator) *** Please include a RELEVANT "Subject:" line on all submissions! *** *** Submissions without them may be ignored! *** ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Internet PRIVACY Forum is a moderated digest for the discussion and analysis of issues relating to the general topic of privacy (both personal and collective) in the "information age" of the 1990's and beyond. The moderator will choose submissions for inclusion based on their relevance and content. Submissions will not be routinely acknowledged. All submissions should be addressed to "firstname.lastname@example.org" and must have RELEVANT "Subject:" lines; submissions without appropriate and relevant "Subject:" lines may be ignored. Excessive "signatures" on submissions are subject to editing. Subscriptions are via an automatic list server system; for subscription information, please send a message consisting of the word "help" (quotes not included) in the BODY of a message to: "email@example.com". Mailing list problems should be reported to "firstname.lastname@example.org". All messages included in this digest represent the views of their individual authors and all messages submitted must be appropriate to be distributable without limitations. The PRIVACY Forum archive, including all issues of the digest and all related materials, is available via anonymous FTP from site "ftp ftp.vortex.com", in the "/privacy" directory. Use the FTP login "ftp" or "anonymous", and enter your e-mail address as the password. The typical "README" and "INDEX" files are available to guide you through the files available for FTP access. PRIVACY Forum materials may also be obtained automatically via e-mail through the list server system. Please follow the instructions above for getting the list server "help" information, which includes details regarding the "index" and "get" list server commands, which are used to access the PRIVACY Forum archive. All PRIVACY Forum materials are available through the Internet Gopher system via a gopher server on site "gopher.vortex.com/". Access to PRIVACY Forum materials is also available through the Internet World Wide Web (WWW) via the Vortex Technology WWW server at the URL: "http://www.vortex.com"; full keyword searching of all PRIVACY Forum files is available via WWW access. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- VOLUME 09, ISSUE 21 Quote for the day: "When you question, it slows you down." -- Francis (Richard Jordan) "Logan's Run" (MGM; 1976) ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Sat, 14 Oct 2000 09:03 PDT From: email@example.com (Lauren Weinstein; PRIVACY Forum Moderator) Subject: Election 2000, Privacy, and the Internet Greetings. As we enter the home stretch of the current U.S. election cycle, a variety of crucial issues loom large, many of which could be greatly affected by the outcome of the Presidential and Congressional elections. Unlike the dreadfully sorry excuse for a representative process demonstrated by the recently completed ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) "election" procedure, many millions of persons will be voting in the U.S. national elections on Nov. 7. (For more thoughts on the ICANN process, please see the "PFIR Statement on Internet Policies, Regulations, and Control" at: http://www.pfir.org/statements/policies.) In many cases, the serious issues underlying the upcoming Congressional and Presidential voting have been obscured or distorted by rhetoric from all sides, much of it purposeful and targeted, sometimes in precise, privacy-invasive manners. There are certainly many issues beyond the Internet and privacy to be considered. The dramatic events in the Middle East of the last few days seem to assure that international affairs will take a much greater role on the election stage than is typical for United States elections. More substantive attention to the international environment by national political candidates is long overdue, though I'll admit to not being inspired by most of the current candidate crop. It is worrisome to say the least when, as in some current cases, expectations are set so low that a Middle School level recitation of international names, pronounced without overt stumbling, is categorized by some commentators as acting in a "Presidential" manner. Pretty scary stuff... This year, a variety of privacy-related issues have played significant roles in the campaigns for both Congress and the Presidency, beyond the fact that the next President is likely to appoint Supreme Court Justices who could dramatically affect national privacy policies for many years to come. Unfortunately, these matters are all such a mixed bag that it is basically impossible to make a rational choice between the two major candidates using these issues as a focus. (I refer at this time only to the "two major candidates" with due apologies to those persons who support candidates in other parties. In all honesty, as a practical matter, I do not consider the other candidates' current minimal impact on the election process to be sufficient grounds to equate them with either the Democratic or Republican candidates in terms of potential election outcomes. Perhaps this will change in the future.) The Internet and privacy issues have become hot-button political topics in a variety of quarters. A number of proposals are pending in Congress that would either make matters better, or worse, depending upon your point of view. Bills that address issues of e-mail spam (please see http://www.pfir.org/statements/spam for more on this), Social Security Numbers, banking privacy and disclosures, spyware -- software that "leaks" data back to third parties, and more, are in various legislative stages. They are all important, but rarely are discussed within the political arena. Privacy issues make for strange bedfellows indeed, with all manner of rather bizarre cross-party coalitions responsible for or supporting many of these privacy-related proposals. On the other hand, the Internet has become a most convenient political scapegoat for any number of societies' ills, a conduit for privacy-invasive behavior by political parties, and a dandy target for political distortions in the tradition of old-style politics supreme. Perhaps the most famous recent political distortion in this regard is the oft-quoted line about Al Gore claiming that he invented the Internet. He of course never made that statement. He did say that he was proud of the initiative he had taken in the creation of the Internet, a statement that many Internet old-timers have validated. The publicly-accessible Internet as we know it today was largely a political creation, the child of the Defense Department ARPANET and directly related to Congressional initiatives in which Al Gore had a major role. He never claimed the inventing of Internet technology. Be that as it may, some who would prefer to draw attention away from actual records find it convenient to distort his statements. Politics as usual -- and both parties play the game. Nor does either party seem to have much to be proud of when it comes to the the use of personal data in attempts manipulate voters, especially this year. Last December, I discussed the operations of Aristotle Publishing (in the PRIVACY Forum issue at: http://www.vortex.com/privacy/priv.08.22). Firms like Aristotle match up voter registration records with personal data provided at Web sites, and in some cases with a variety of other personal but public record data (where you live, how much your house is worth, what sort of neighborhood you live in, what kind of car you drive, etc.) to create personalized pitches on behalf of their political clients. Outside of the fact that many people find this sort of dossier creation extremely offensive and intrusive, it also results in the real positions of the parties becoming increasingly foggy, as they attempt to present themselves as precisely what they think an individual voter would want to see, either through phone calls, physical mail, or increasingly via e-mail. It's easy for any underlying truths to be effectively buried by such technologies, which both parties are apparently relying upon to ever-increasing degrees. As I mentioned, even as the parties use these technologies to their advantage, and candidates promote the Internet as an educational wonder, they also treat the Internet as a convenient scapegoat to flog for all manner of perceived societal problems which have existed since long before the Internet's appearance. During a brief exchange concerning gun control in the second Presidential Debate, candidate George W. Bush appeared to directly equate use of the Internet with causing children to commit gun crimes. A convenient argument, but seemingly much more pandering than addressing reality. Unfortunately, both political parties seem to be charter members of the Internet blame game. Congress on a bipartisan basis keeps pushing for, and both Presidential candidates have apparently endorsed, various forms of privacy-invasive Internet rating, content control, and filtering programs, even in the face of most software filters' abysmally repressive and inaccurate performance (http://www.pfir.org/statements/ratings). It appears to be "good politics" to blame the Internet for problems with our youths, just as comic books, rock music, and long (male) hair were routinely condemned years ago. Real evidence is not required -- just repeat the party lines often enough and perhaps the people will believe them to be true. As bad as all this looks, it could be worse. By the time of the next Presidential election four years from now, we're likely to see the issue of Internet Voting in local, state, and national elections take center stage. As discussed in http://www.pfir.org/statements/voting, this concept opens up a nightmarish Pandora's Box of privacy, security, reliability, accuracy, and related problems, most of which are not subject to obvious or simple solutions. Yet, the pressure to increase voting turnout by letting people vote at home from their PCs will be very strong indeed, and if history is any guide, the massive risks inherent in such online voting schemes will be largely ignored amidst rosy forecasts by such systems' promoters and their political allies. If this actually transpires, we're likely to all be the losers. Gee, we haven't even gotten past this election yet, and already Lauren is offering worries for next time -- he's a regular ray of sunshine! Well, these issues will all be dealt with, one way or another, in due course. No need to panic quite yet. For now, take a deep breath, consider your options carefully, and for those of you eligible to do so, please be sure to vote. For all the rhetoric and spin, political mayhem and manipulation, your vote still counts, and voting is still exceptionally important to our future. After all, as the famous political adviser "Criswell" suggested in the film "Plan 9 From Outer Space" -- you'll be living in the future for the rest of your life! Take care. Be seeing you. --Lauren-- Lauren Weinstein firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Co-Founder, PFIR: People For Internet Responsibility - http://www.pfir.org Moderator, PRIVACY Forum - http://www.vortex.com Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy ------------------------------ End of PRIVACY Forum Digest 09.21 ************************
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