WASHINGTON — Nearly 500 of the world's leading thinkers on technology, free enterprise, e-commerce and the international privacy movement are here this week for Computers, Freedom + Privacy 1999, a comprehensive conference on the global Internet and its impact on the world's citizens.
The three-day event kicked off yesterday with CFP99 Chair Marc Rotenberg setting the tone with a candid acknowledgement that the global Internet is becoming more pervasive in people's lives. He said the wide span of diverse opinion at the conference would help attendees better understand and address how computer technology is changing the way consumers, business leaders and government officials interpret privacy and freedom.
After general statements from the opening plenary panel participants,
hard questions from audience members about consumer privacy, the efficacy of
industry self-regulation and global security were delivered one after another
to such notable figureheads as Stephen Lau, Hong Kong's privacy commissioner
for personal data, and Simon Davis, a fellow with the London School of
Economics. Particularly critical comments about violations of consumers
privacy were volleyed at George Vradenburg, senior vice president at America
Vradenburg reiterated the importance of businesses abiding by the law and
cooperating with government leaders but also acknowledged that customers are
notified when law enforcement officials have obtained information on them
from AOL through court order.
Davies reminded the audience that Europe now has established privacy law. Protections went farther for European citizens and proclaimed that
such laws were not negotiable with the United States in relation to the
European Privacy Directive. It cannot be Europe that changes, he said.