May 8, 2002

Dear Representative:

We write as a nonpartisan coalition of organizations from across the country to urge you to support a framework of privacy protection for personal information that incorporates Fair Information Practices (FIPs). FIPs clearly define the responsibilities that entities assume when collecting individuals' personal information. We recommend that legislation considered by the Committee be evaluated by the statement of FIPs included in this letter.

Public opinion polls show clear support for the meaningful protections that FIPs provide. A number of recent polls show that Americans are "highly concerned" about their privacy and that legislation is preferred over self-regulatory "trust" programs.

Privacy Legislation based on FIPs would include the following elements:

In addition to FIPs, privacy legislation should incorporate independent enforcement and oversight by the Federal Trade Commission and by State Attorneys General. Privacy legislation can stimulate commerce through the promotion of genuine Privacy Enhancing Technologies-systems that help individuals remain anonymous or limit the collection of personal information. There is also a role for restrictions on surveillance technologies in privacy legislation.

Additionally, the ability of states to develop supplementary protections to federal law is of great importance in privacy legislation and consumer law generally. Most privacy laws do not preempt the right of states to craft extra protections for individuals. States have supplemented federal law with protections that afford individuals more time to bring actions in court for violations, and protections that are tailored to the sensitivities of smaller constituencies. In supplementing federal law, states can experiment with different approaches, and serve as laboratories of democracy.

Finally, in the interests of both personal privacy and international commerce, American law should not hinder international enforcement of privacy law.

A failure to establish strong safeguards in law has resulted in economic harm to commerce and growing public concern on privacy. We urge you to use the FIPs outlined in this letter to evaluate privacy legislation that comes before the committee.


Marc Rotenberg
Executive Director

Chris Hoofnagle
Legislative Counsel
Electronic Privacy Information Center

Coralee Whitcomb
Computer Professional for Social Responsibility

Susan Grant
Vice President for Public Policy
National Consumers League

Beth Givens
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

Remar Sutton

Jason Catlett
Junkbusters Corp.

Edmund Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director
U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)

Ken McEldowney
Executive Director
Consumer Action

Evan Hendricks
Privacy Times

James Love
Consumer Project on Technology

J.C. Pierce

Tracey Thomas

Carole Doeppers
Consumer Privacy and Health Data Protection Consultant
Madison, Wisconsin