Computers Freedom and Privacy 2002

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Last week I attended the Computers, 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.


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 @ http://www.epic.org

Consumer Action @ http://www.Consumer-action.org/English/library/privacy_rights/

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse @ http://www.privacyrights.org/

Jason Catlett’s JunkBusters @ http://www.junkbusters.org/

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.

Mike Banks Valentine operates SEOptimism, Offering SEO training of
in-house content managers http://seoptimism.com/SEO_Staff_Training.htm
as well as the Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial at
http://WebSite101.com and blogs about SEO at http://RealitySEO.com
where this article appears with live links to SMO stories, buttons, blog posts and examples.

Computers Freedom and Privacy 2002
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