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Home > Past Releases and Reports > New "Privacy Coalition" Pledge Gets it Half-Right

For Immediate Release

February 12, 2001

Contact: Jim Harper

(202) 486-0824

New "Privacy Coalition" Pledge Gets it Half-Right

Liberal Groups' Failure to Distinguish Between Government and Private Sector Leaves Proposal Wanting

Washington, D.C. A coalition of liberal advocacy groups gets privacy half-right, says Web-based privacy thinktank

"This new 'Privacy Coalition' has not finished its intellectual spade-work," said Jim Harper, operator of "When they recognize the difference between government and the private sector, they will begin to advance the ball on privacy."

A collection of groups calling themselves the "Privacy Coalition" proposed a "Privacy Pledge" today, calling on Members of Congress and state legislators to support an intriguing, but ambiguous "privacy framework." The pledge calls privacy a fundamental value and cites the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

"The Fourth Amendment makes privacy from government a fundamental right" said Jim Harper, operator of "Privacy from government and privacy in the private sector are very different things. Government is the biggest threat to privacy. Congress and state legislators can do extraordinary good by getting the government's privacy house in order."

The Web site lists numerous threats to privacy from government surveillance, government databases, and government regulations that prevent citizens and consumers from maintaining their privacy.

"Some of the largest threats to privacy come from the tax system, many social spending programs, and law enforcement," said Harper. "These costs to privacy have not been well considered in the past."

The Privacy Coalition pledge fails to distinguish between government and the private sector, however, appearing to invite Fourth Amendment-style limitations on citizens and businesses. In the private sector, privacy is protected by contract law, tort law, and educated consumerism.

"There is certainly plenty of rough-and-tumble in translating existing privacy laws and practices to new technologies," said Harper, "but government mandates on private-sector information practices would not improve things. They would be especially ironic because governments themselves are the chief threat to privacy." ( is a Web site that captures privacy as a public policy issue from a free-market, pro-technology perspective. It has been described as a "privacy policy portal" and an "online think-tank."


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