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Home > Past Releases and Reports > The Privacy Debate: Lots of Heat, Still No Light

For Immediate Release

October 2, 2000

Contact: Jim Harper

(202) 486-0824

The Privacy Debate: Lots of Heat, Still No Light Criticizes Quality of Debate on Information Privacy today issued the following statement:

"The debate about information privacy so far has produced much heat, but little light. Before taking any action, Congress and federal regulators should consider the issues much more carefully." "Basic questions have not been answered. Everyone agrees that privacy is important, but there is no clear understanding of what privacy is. Congress has not focused on the threats to privacy that are genuine. The technologies that will protect privacy without government regulation are increasing daily. And the costs of regulating the information economy costs to children and the poor, for example have not been considered." ( is a privacy policy portal supported by a number of think-tanks and public policy organizations. More than 1,000,000 consumers and businesses are members of these organizations.

The statement comes in the wake of announcements by Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) about his plans to regulate the Internet and other media, and activity in Congress to establish a federal commission on privacy.

Major disconnects inhabit the privacy debate. For example, the Electronic Privacy Information Center recently issued a study finding that the United States "has no comprehensive privacy protection law for the private sector." The Department of Commerce, however, has found that privacy protections established in American law are plentiful. Writing to the European Commission in July, the Department said: "The right to recover damages for invasion of personal privacy is well established under U.S. common law."

While there has been much discussion of regulating private-sector information practices, the most voracious collectors, users, and sometime abusers of personal information are governments. Loss of privacy is a direct result of many government programs and regulations that prevent individuals from maintaining privacy.

The Web site ( debuted September 11, issuing a report highlighting the threats to privacy from government.


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