February 14, 2000
Database Nation Author Urges Agenda for Congressional Privacy Caucus
San Francisco, CA--Simson Garfinkel, author of
Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century, today
recommended an agenda for the
newly-formed Congressional Privacy Caucus.
"Congress should immediately set about the task of drafting and implementing a
National Data Protection Act--an Act that the American People have been
denied for more than 30 years. Congress should also create a National Data
Protection Office that would protect privacy in the 21st century the same way
that the Environmental Protection Agency narrowly avoided an environmental
catastrophe at the end of the 20th," says Garfinkel.
In this groundbreaking book
Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century, Garfinkel
calls for a 5-point policy plan, including:
Senate's top Democrat, Tom Daschle, announced Wednesday the formation
of a Senate Democratic Privacy Task Force, while Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.,
disclosed the creation of a bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus of
senators and House members.
- Establishment of a national data protection act
- Creation of a data protection office
- Refunding of the Congressional Office Of Technology Assessment
- Modification of many existing laws
- Creation of new consumer-protection laws to protect privacy in the 21st
"The issue of privacy touches virtually every American, often in extremely
personal ways," Daschle, D-S.D., said in a statement issued February 9, 2000.
"Whether it is bank records or medical files or Internet activities,
Americans have a right to expect that personal matters will be kept private.
too many ways, however, our right to privacy is at risk. Our laws have not
kept up with sweeping technological changes. As a result, some of our most
sensitive, private matters end up on databases that are then sold to the
highest bidder. That is wrong, it's dangerous, and it has to stop."
"Fifty years ago, in the book 1984, George Orwell imagined a future in
which privacy was vanquished by a totalitarian state," explains Garfinkel,
"In 2000, we find the threats to our privacy are not coming from a
monolithic 'Big Brother,' but--even harder to grapple with--hundreds of
sources, not seeking to control us, but merely to market to us, count us,
or streamline paperwork. The result, though, is just as chilling as
"It would be nice to turn back the clock on our massive effort to build an
instrumented planet in which every transaction and every happening is
recorded, logged, and indexed," he adds. "But many gains in privacy can be
accomplished by simply establishing standards that define what uses of
information are appropriate and which are forbidden."
"Up till now, the high tech industry hasn't done a good job of educating
lawmakers and the public about the implications of the technologies we're
creating," says Tim O'Reilly,
CEO of O'Reilly & Associates, a computer-industry pioneer and publisher of
Simson's book, Database
Nation: the Death of Privacy in the 21st Century.
"Because Simson's book does such a clear job of laying out the threats to
America's privacy, we have sent copies to the Hon. Tom Daschle, Richard
Shelby and the other members of this important caucus, and have made a
standing offer of complimentary copies to other federal, state and local
Garfinkel's book (which Ralph Nader calls "a graphic and blistering
indictment--one that you're entitled to take very personally") was just
released by O'Reilly & Associates in hardcover, for $24.95.
Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century
6, which deals with medical issues, is available free
information about the book, including Table of Contents, index,
author bio, and sample chapters.
- The author's web
site, including discussions about the book and related privacy and
computer security issues.
Cover graphic in jpeg format.
- Images of
By Simson Garfinkel
1-56592-653-6, 320 pages, $24.95
O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.
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