The Hill Times
Monday, October 21, 1996


Privacy Key Issue in Online Environment

by Pierre Bourque,

Food for thought and a chilling reminder from David Jones ( of Electronic Frontier Canada ( that privacy is emerging as a key issue in the evolution of the online environment. In a recent digital memo E-mailed to EFC members, Jones raises concern over plans by the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP) "to deal away your privacy and free speech rights."

Jones points to a growing willingness by ISPs "to sacrifice your privacy and free speech rights to reduce their own legal liability", the censorship of controversial Usenet newsgroups by CAIP members, and the willing disclosure to third parties and police (even without a warrant) of the contents of private E-mail communications and details of a person's web-surfing habits. Adds Jones, "these are your rights that have been placed on the bargaining table, and you weren't invited to the negotiations!"

And not surprising to any online veteran that privacy was revealed as a key issue in the 1996 Equifax/Harris Consumer Privacy Survey for the Internet, which confirmed that U.S. "Internet users place a high premium on their online privacy". A few related facts as reported by the BNA Daily Report for Executives: "60 per cent of the Internet users interviewed said their anonymity shouldn't be compromised when they visit a Web site or use e-mail ... 49 per cent felt that the federal government should be restricted in its ability to scan Internet messages ... and 71 per cent did not want online service providers to track their Web surfing patterns for marketing purposes."

Copyright © 1996 by The Hill Times. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.