Internet Crime Report Irks Privacy Groups

SAN MATEO (03/09/2000) - A HIGH-PROFILE INTERNET crime report delivered to President Clinton on Thursday immediately drew the ire of key privacy groups.

Chaired by Attorney General Janet Reno, Clinton's Working Group on Unlawful Conduct on the Internet concluded that some federal laws do not translate well to Internet crime.

The Working Group set out to determine whether or not existing laws are sufficient to police Internet crime, and whether law enforcement officials need new tools or legal authority to battle Internet crime.

The group concluded that existing laws "for the most part adequately cover unlawful conduct on the Internet."

But the report dubbed The Electronic Frontier: The Challenges of Unlawful Conduct Involving the Use of the Internet also found areas where current laws for "offline conduct" simply do not work in cases of online crime.

"There may be a few instances where relevant federal laws need to be amended to better reflect the realities of new technologies," said the report delivered Thursday to President Clinton.

Privacy advocates such as the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) worry that the report opens the door to new online legislation.

"The most avid readers of this report will probably be members of Congress who want to appear tough on crime and will see this as an area for more legislation," said Jim Dempsey, senior staff counsel for CDT.

For the technology industry overall, the report could have a negative impact, he said.

"I'm afraid technology companies will find themselves pressured or legally required to collect and hold more information on their systems about users so that those companies will have that information available when the government comes looking for it," he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union immediately dispatched a letter to Attorney General Reno in response to the report.

"The report ... raises a number of civil liberties concerns. We urge you to reject a number of the report's recommendations and to clarify others," the ACLU said in its response.

The report is currently available only in hardcopy at the U.S. Department of Justice, in Washington, D.C., at

The Center for Democracy and Technology, in Washington, D.C., is at The American Civil Liberties Union, in New York, is at

Jennifer Jones is an InfoWorld senior editor.

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