<-- The Filter --> August 1998

July 30, 1998
No. 1.2  .  The Filter  .  8.12.98

Your regular dose of public interest Internet news and commentary from
the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School


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> At Loggerheads in Loggerland: Public networks—community-based nonprofits that provide low-cost or free Interent access to the poor—were dealt a blow last week when the IRS began an investigation into the propriety of one such organization's tax-exempt status in Oregon. At issue are "donations" to the group which may, in fact, constitute fees for service and thereby invalidate the group's claim to nonprofit status.


> Throw Out the Baby, Keep the Bathwater: The Communications Decency Act II contains a reworded section of the original CDA bill aimed at shielding minors from "indecent" material online. Those in the know (including our own Lawrence Lessig) say the new version stands a good chance of passing muster with the Supreme Court.


> Too Late for Bill: Vice President Al Gore announced a sweeping privacy initiative aimed at giving consumers more control over how their personal information is used.


> Tiananmen II: The Chinese government may execute a man found guilty of giving the email addresses of 30,000 Chinese citizens to a Chinese pro-democracy magazine. The incident is one of a spate of recent arrests related to a nationwide crackdown on Internet-based dissidents.


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Last month the Clinton administration announced that is is considering issuing a unique "health identification number" to each citizen. Berkman Fellow Richard Sobel says we should be afraid, be very afraid, of how initiatives like this severely erode personal privacy and civil rights.


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      * Privacy in Cyber/Spaces: Government Databanks and Identification

A Berkman Center roundtable discussion exploring the potential between an open society and government-mandated identification numbers.

      * The Electronic Privacy Information Center: ID Cards Archive

A repository of information on legislation and current policy proposals regarding national identification numbers.

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"It's curious to see that [privacy] is being used as a political issue...It's going to raise a lot of First Amendment issues—the public's right to know and the right to disseminate information."
—Washington lawyer Ron Plesser, in the Wall Street Journal

"Why is there so little work that is as much in the public interest as it is in the self-interest of the home-page publisher on one hand, or managers, investors and stockholders on the other?"
—Marc Weiss, founder of the Web Development Fund, in @NY


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From The Filter 1.1

George Skakel of Stamford, Connecticut says email privacy is much more complex than postal privacy. While the feds may be able to intercept traditional mail and email alike, no one keeps records of all postal mail.

Tom Binkow Ann Arbor, Michigan says the notion of "balance" between public and commercial spaces online is irrelevant, because the Internet has unlimited "space." These and more letters from readers may be found at:


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The next issue of The Filter will include essays by Simson Garfinkel on information warfare, and Brooke Shelby Biggs on the role of public media online.

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Last updated

January 21, 2008