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   Volume 4.16                                  December 1, 1997
                            Published by the
              Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
                            Washington, D.C.
Table of Contents
 [1] EPIC Report Slams Internet Content Filters
 [2] Groups Establish Internet Free Expression Alliance
 [3] New Censorship Bill Introduced in Congress
 [4] Court Rules AOL Not Liable for Posted Material
 [5] Justice Department Funding
 [6] Treasury Department Funding
 [7] Congressional Action and New Bills
 [8] Upcoming Conferences and Events
[2] EPIC Report Slams Internet Content Filters
EPIC today released a report that finds that "family-friendly" search
engines typically block access to 99 percent of the material on the
Internet that would be appropriate for young people.  The report was
released just prior to a White House summit that will examine the use of
content filters and rating systems for the Internet.
EPIC's study was based on a side-by-side comparison of an unfiltered
Internet search engine (AtltaVista) with a filtered search engine.
According to Net Shepherd, Inc., its Family Search retrieval service
screens out material that is "inappropriate and/or objectionable for
average user families."  EPIC tested both search engines using such
search phrases as the "American Red Cross," the "National Aquarium," and
"Thomas Edison."  The study found that the filtered search engine
typically blocked access to 99 percent of the documents containing those
phrases when compared with results returned by AltaVista.
The EPIC report, "Faulty Filters," includes a survey of 100 search
phrases in four categories -- schools; charitable and political
organizations; educational and artistic groups; and concepts that might
be of interest to young people.
Marc Rotenberg, Director of EPIC, said, "We found that as information on
popular topics became more widely available on the Internet, the
filtered search engine was likely to block an even higher percentage.
We further found that the search engine did not seem to restrict
sensitive topics for young people any more than it restricted matters of
general interest.  Even with the very severe blocking criteria employed,
we noted that some material which parents might consider to be
objectionable was still provided by the software."
The report was released at a press conference held at the National Press
Club.  EPIC said that it was joining with several other organizations to
establish the Internet Free Expression Alliance (IFEA) to address the
free speech implications of Internet rating and filtering proposals (see
item below).
The text of the "Faulty Filters" Report is available at:
[2] Groups Establish Internet Free Expression Alliance
EPIC today announced that it is joining with 20 other organizations to
establish the Internet Free Expression Alliance (IFEA).  The new
coalition will address the free speech implications of Internet rating
and filtering proposals and promote the open exchange of information on
the Internet.
The formation of IFEA comes one day before the opening of an
Administration-sponsored summit on Internet issues.  President Clinton
is on record as supporting the widespread use of content ratings and
filtering techniques to create a "family-friendly Internet."  At an
earlier summit meeting last July, the President said that it "must be
our objective" to ensure that the labeling of Internet content "will
become standard practice."
As detailed in the report EPIC released today, such rating and filtering
systems can block access to a vast amount of valuable information;
according to the EPIC report, 99 percent of all online material is
typically filtered out by a new "family-friendly" Internet search
engine. In a statement released at IFEA's inaugural press conference at
the National Press Club, EPIC Legal Counsel David Sobel said, "It is
troubling that the White House has so readily embraced an approach that
has the potential to destroy the Internet as an educational resource."
EPIC was a plaintiff in the historic ACLU v. Reno litigation, which led
to last summer's landmark Supreme Court decision striking down the
Communications Decency Act (CDA).  Many other organizations that joined
the CDA challenge are involved in the creation of IFEA.  Alliance
members include the American Civil Liberties Union, American Society of
Newspaper Editors, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, the
Electronic Frontier Foundation, the National Coalition Against
Censorship, the National Writers Union and the Society of Professional
For information on IFEA can be found at:
[3] New Censorship Bill Introduced in Congress
Senator Dan Coats (R-IN), one of the original sponsors of the
Communications Decency Act, introduced a new bill to regulate content on
the Internet on November 8.  The new bill seeks to limit material on the
net that is "harmful to minors."
The bill, S. 1482, provides that "Whoever in interstate or foreign
commerce in or through the World Wide Web is engaged in the business of
the commercial distribution of material that is harmful to minors shall
restrict access to such material by persons under 17 years of age."
Violations are punishable by $50,000 fines and six month imprisonment.
The Federal Communications Commission would be given the power to
determine what forms of age verification are acceptable, including a
verified credit card, debit account, adult access code, adult personal
identification number" or other means "as the Commission may prescribe."
The FCC and the Attorney General are required to post on the web "such
information as is necessary to inform the public of the meaning of the
term `material that is harmful to minors'".
The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science
and Transportation.  No hearings have been scheduled.  More information
on the bill, free speech and the CDA litigation is available at:
[4] Court Rules AOL Not Liable for Posted Material
A Federal court ruled on November 14 that America Online is not liable
for failing to remove material from its bulletin boards after being
notified that the material was a malicious hoax.  The U.S. District
Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that provisions enacted
into the law as part of the Communications Decency Act preempt libel
actions under state common law and exempt online services from
The case began when an unknown person placed a series of false notices
on one of AOL's bulletin boards advertising t-shirts and other items
with slogans glorifying the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma
City.  The ads contained Kenneth Zeran's name and telephone number and
suggested he had posted them. Zeran received numerous  death threats
from people outraged by the posted notices.  He sued, claiming AOL was
negligent in allowing the notices to remain and reappear on AOL despite
his complaints following the appearance of the first advertisement.
The court ruled that  Congress intended that the CDA preempt state
defamation law:
     Distributor liability discourages Internet providers from
     engaging in efforts to review online content and delete
     objectionable material, precisely the effort Congress sought to
     promote in enacting the CDA.  Indeed, the most effective means by
     which an Internet provider could avoid the inference of a
     "reason to know" of objectionable material on its service would
     be to distance itself from any control over knowledge of online
     content provided by third parties.  This effect frustrates the
     purpose of the CDA and, thus, compels preemption of state law
     claims for distributor liability against interactive computer
     service providers.
Free speech attorneys are concerned that the decision could encourage
more censorship by online services.
[5] Justice Department Funding
On November 13, a conference committee approved H.R. 2267, a bill making
appropriations for the Departments of Commerce, Justice and State, the
Judiciary, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30,
The committee approved a total budget of $2,930,042,000 for the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, including money from the Violent Crime
Reduction Trust Fund.  Of that, over $200 million was set aside for
surveillance technology, databases and other privacy related
technologies.  This includes some of the $50,000,000 for automated data
processing and telecommunications and technical investigative equipment;
$1,500,000 to maintain an independent program office dedicated solely to
the relocation of the Criminal Justice Information Services Division and
the automation of fingerprint identification services;  and $5,500,000
for establishing DNA quality-assurance and proficiency-testing standards
and establishing an index to facilitate law enforcement exchange of DNA
identification information.
The committee also approved $11,845,000 and 56 positions (including 34
agents) to establish Computer Investigative and Infrastructure Threat
Assessment (CITAC) Teams and for technical equipment and contractor
support for the CITAC Center;  $900,000 for training and equipment for
Computer Analysis Response Teams;  $10,000,000 and 60 new positions
(including 25 agents) to expand the FBI's efforts to combat child
pornography and sexual exploitation on the Internet and via on-line
service providers; $9,059,000 for the FBI's acquisition of a FOIA
document processing system;  and $84,400,000 for expenses related to
automation of fingerprint identification services.
However, the Conference Committee agreed not to include more money for
funding the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).
The committee was critical of the implementation of the program:
     The conferees note with concern, the continued delays in
     implementation of the Communications Assistance for Law
     Enforcement Act (CALEA).  CALEA was enacted over three years ago
     and there has been little, if any, progress in developing much
     needed upgrades for telecommunications systems to support law
     enforcement wiretapping requirements.  Based on recent discussions
     between the Committees on Appropriations, the Department of
     Justice and representatives from the telecommunications industry,
     an agreement was reached in an attempt to move this process
     forward, which included a commitment by both the industry and law
     enforcement that by January 4, 1998, the Department of Justice
     will provide to the Committees on Appropriations: (1) cost
     estimates for the development and deployment of the solution; (2)
     a timeline for development and deployment of the solution; and
     (3) two signed cooperative agreements with appropriate
     telecommunications carriers and/or equipment manufacturers.  The
     conferees agree that completion of these steps will indicate
     whether or not industry and law enforcement officials are
     committed to the implementation of CALEA and whether additional
     funding, within the amounts authorized for reimbursement to the
     telecommunications industry, will be provided in the future.
[6] Treasury Department Funding
On October 10, President Clinton signed H.R. 2378, the Treasury and
General Government Appropriations Act for FY 1998 (Public Law: 105-61).
The bill provides funding for the Treasury Department and its
components, including the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN),
the Secret Service and other smaller agencies.
The Treasury Department appropriation includes $1,000,000 for the Secure
Outreach/Encrypted Transmission Program; $1,460,000 to provide technical
assistance and to assess the effectiveness of new technology intended to
combat identity-based crimes; $15,000,000 for high energy container
x-ray systems and automated targeting systems; $9,500,000 for the
passenger processing initiative; $4,500,000 for Forward-Looking Infrared
capabilities; and $13,000,000 to the Counterdrug Technology Assessment
Center for a program to transfer technology to State and local law
enforcement agencies.
A provision to prohibit the IRS from placing SSNs on mailing labels was
left out by the conference committee, but the committee requested that
the IRS report to the Committees on Appropriations on how it plans to
protect taxpayer privacy in its mailings.
[7] Congressional Action and New Bills
Bills Approved or Signed into Law
H. R. 2977.  The Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments of 1997.
Approved by the House on November 10 and the Senate on November 13.  The
bill excludes from the Federal Advisory Committee Act "(i) any committee
that is composed wholly of full-time, or permanent part-time, officers
or employees of the Federal Government, and (ii) any committee that is
created by the National Academy of Sciences or the National Academy of
Public Administration."  The bill also requires more public oversight
when Federal agencies utilize the Academies.
S. 170.  Clone Pager Authorization Act of 1996.  Approved by the Senate
on November 7.  The bill lowers the legal standard for obtaining a
numeric clone pager from a court order based on probable cause to one
based on whether it is needed for an ongoing investigation.  Introduced
by DeWine and Leahy (D-VT).
S. 858.  Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998.  Amends
Fair Credit Reporting Act to allow government agencies to obtain credit
reports of employees in national security investigations.  Signed by the
President on November 20 (Public Law 105-107).
Bills Introduced
H.R.3048.  Digital Era Copyright Enhancement Act.  Introduced by Boucher
(R-VA) and Campbell (R-CA) on November 13, 1997.  Implements WIPO
Treaty. Ensures "Fair Use".  Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
S.1499.  Health Insurance Consumer's Bill of Rights Act of 1997.
Introduced by Boxer (D-CA) on November 9.  Requires managed care group
health plans to establish written policies and procedures for the
handling of medical records; ensure the confidentiality of specified
enrollee information; and prevent release of any individual patient
record information, unless such a release is authorized in writing by
the enrollee or otherwise required by law.  Referred to the Committee on
Labor and Human Resources.
S. 1521.  Law Enforcement Technology Advertisement Clarification Act of
1997.  Introduced by Hatch (R-UT) on November 9.  Authorizes advertising
of wiretapping and bugging equipment if provided to government agencies.
Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
[8] Upcoming Conferences and Events
Annual Computer Security Applications Conference. December 9-12. San
Diego, CA. Sponsored by ASCA.  http://www.acsac.org/
Education in Computer Security Workshop, January 19-21, 1998. Pacific
Grove, California. Sponsored by Naval Postgraduate School Center for
INFOSEC. Contact:
RSA'98 -- The 1998 RSA Data Security Conference.  January 12-16, 1998.
San Francisco, CA.  Contact kurt@rsa.com or http://www.rsa.com/conf98/
Financial Cryptography '98. February 23-26, 1998. Anguilla, BWI.
7th USENIX Security Symposium. January 26-29, 1998. San Antonio, TX
Sponsored by USENIX & CERT. http://www.usenix.org/sec/sec98.html
The Eighth Conference on Computers, Freedom & Privacy. February, 18-20,
1998. Austin, TX. Contact: mlemley@mail.law.utexas.edu.
ACM Policy98. May 10-12, 1998. Washington, DC. Sponsored by ACM and
USACM. http://www.acm.org/usacm/events/policy98/
             (Send calendar submissions to alert@epic.org)
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About EPIC
The Electronic Privacy Information Center is a public interest research
center in Washington, DC.  It was established in 1994 to focus public
attention on emerging privacy issues such as the Clipper Chip, the
Digital Telephony proposal, national ID cards, medical record privacy,
and the collection and sale of personal information. EPIC is sponsored
by the Fund for Constitutional Government, a non-profit organization
established in 1974 to protect civil liberties and constitutional
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Act litigation, and conducts policy research. For more information,
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Thank you for your support.
  ---------------------- END EPIC Alert 4.16 -----------------------

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