Industry Trade Groups Up in Arms

SAN MATEO (06/27/2000) - A band of industry trade groups recently lashed out against major e-commerce efforts at the U.S. Postal Service and Internal Revenue Service, claiming that new e-projects at those agencies pose privacy threats and forge into territory better suited to the private sector.

In a letter to Congress, a trio of industry voices -- CCIA (Computer & Communications Industry Association), AEA (American Electronics Association), and SIIA (Software & Information Industry Association), all based in Washington -- took aim at new federal e-commerce plans.

The stinging letter named specifically a Postal Service move to offer electronic bill payment services.

"These commercial electronic financial service offerings now provide the Government access to extensive personal information of individuals, giving the government a comprehensive roadmap to the purchasing and spending habits and patterns of citizens," the letter reads.

Normally the government could not get access to information "inside the envelope" without a court order, the letter continues.

The groups also take issue with an IRS plan to begin offering electronic financial services.

In the rush to automate, the IRS is "seeking to regulate the revenue models used by the private sector." The IRS is also nearing potential privacy infractions in setting up the new services, the groups wrote.

The letter urges key congressional members to include the Postal Service and IRS e-commerce plans in a federal privacy review now underway.

The White House and General Accounting Office are looking into the degree to which some federal Web sites monitor and maintain information on traffic.

Jennifer Jones is an InfoWorld senior editor.

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