ACLU's Strossen in Spotlight at MIT Conference

April 19, 1999 12:00 am

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BOSTON, MA — Celebrating 35 years of research and technology, the MIT Laboratory for Computer Sciences held an two-day conference this week hosted by guests such as Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, architect Frank Gehry and American Civil Liberties Union President Nadine Strossen.

Featured on a panel entitled “”Should the Anonymous Remailer Be Shutdown,”” Strossen raised some of today’s key civil liberties issues involving Internet communications: identity, privacy, anonymity and free speech.

“”We’ve got to make sure that freedom of speech, freedom of the press and privacy are as protected in cyberspace as they are in the rest of life,”” Strossen said. “”Certain individual rights cannot be sacrificed because of the panic and fears of abuse of a new technology, or because it creates problems for law enforcement.””

In its coverage of the panel, The New York Times highlighted the crucial importance of anonymous remailers — a type of data-network relay that acts as a technological buffer, offering confidentiality to its users.

It can be used to mask the origin of a piece of email or the computer from which a person is browsing the World Wide Web, the Times explained, by stripping off the identifying information on an email and substituting an anonymous code number or term.

In Kosovo, for example, some people have used online connections in an attempt to maintain confidential communications and avoid detection by the Serbian military.

Strossen also raised concerns about how new software technology allows corporations or governments to track a person’s every mouse click and assemble vast digital dossiers on individuals.

“”It can include all your personal financial transactions and your medical records,”” said Strossen. “”I don’t think our laws adequately protect individual privacy anymore. The technologies of anonymity and cryptography may be the only way to protect privacy,”” she said.

The ACLU is currently conducting a “”Defend Your Data”” campaign. Link to /privacy/ to read more about it.

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