For Immediate Release:

Contact: Paige Darden
202-482-1551

October 23, 1995

CLINTON ADMINISTRATION URGES BETTER PROTECTION OF CONSUMER PRIVACY

ON THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has recommended a framework for communications providers that will help protect consumers' personal information while they travel the information superhighway of today and tomorrow.

The recommendation on protection of consumer privacy was contained in a report, Privacy and The National Information Infrastructure (NII): Safeguarding Telecommunications-Related Personal Information, which was released today at the official White House ceremony to launch National Consumers Week 1995.

"Consumers deserve to know what is happening with personal information that their telecommunications service providers are collecting -- and we predict that if companies assure their customers of privacy protection, the result will be greater use of services and increased market opportunities for the private sector," said Larry Irving, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Through this report, the Clinton Administration is urging all communications providers to agree on a self-regulated, voluntary basis to notify as well as obtain consumers' consent before using their personal information for purposes other than the service subscribed to by the consumer.

The report focuses on the private sector's collection, use, and dissemination of consumers' personal information, such as name, address, billing information and usage patterns. Currently, there is no uniform law that can be applied to all telecommunications service providers regarding collection and dissemination of personal information. The report suggests that companies voluntarily put into place policies that would make consumers aware and able to make decisions about the use and dissemination of their personal information.

"At a minimum, it is imperative that long-distance and local telephone companies, direct broadcast satellite, cellular phone, paging, and Internet service providers fully disclose to consumers their policies regarding personal information if we are to realize the full potential of the Information Age," said Irving.

"An advanced information infrastructure promises enormous economic, social and cultural benefits to the Nation -- such as enhanced access to educational and employment opportunities, and improved delivery of health care and government services," said Irving. "We do not want people to be reluctant to take advantage of these benefits because of fear that their personal information will be used in ways that are unexpected or inappropriate."

"The reality is that if companies are not more forthcoming with their customers, consumers will begin to demand legislative and regulatory solutions to guarantee protection of their personal information," added Irving.

"We are encouraged by recent signs that companies are beginning to compete with each other based on their privacy policies, just as they do for price, service, and quality," said Irving. "We hope that the framework this report sets forth for companies will be adopted by all telecommunications service providers so that it will not be necessary for the government to step in."

NTIA serves as the principal adviser to the President, Vice President and Secretary of Commerce on domestic and international communications and information issues and represents the Executive Branch before the Congress, other Federal agencies, foreign governments and international organizations.

To obtain a copy of The National Information Infrastructure (NII): Safeguarding Telecommunications-Related Personal Information report, please contact the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at 703-487-4650. The request order number is pb96-109-087. The report is available on the Internet at www.ntia.doc.gov or gopher.ntia.doc.gov in the new items section.

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