Privacy high on Democrats' list
- By IDG News Service, Patrick Thibodeau
- Aug 22, 2000
The Democrats made privacy a banner issue at their convention last week
and called for more legal protections. But neither the Democrats nor the
Republicans are offering any details about new laws or regulations they
might seek — which doesn't surprise many people.
"I don't think I stand a chance of getting any detail out of either
party because, quite frankly, I don't think they are prepared for the backlash
they might get," said Linda Reino, chief information officer at Universal
Health Services Inc., a large health care provider in King of Prussia, Pa.
For instance, said Reino, if any candidate were to support legislation
giving patients the right to control who sees their records, that would
create obstacles in a clinical care setting, where many specialists may
need to look at a patient's record. "You have to ask yourself whether this
is a realistic expectation," she said.
At the Democratic convention last week, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) took
to the podium to declare that Americans' privacy is "under siege."
"Big banks and business are profiling our spending habits. They are
selling our credit-card records to telemarketers; our medical records can
be abused," said Inslee.
Observers were quick to note, however, that these declarations are short
on specifics. "I think in perception, the Democrats seem to be doing a better
job on capitalizing on the privacy issue by saying they are going to do
something. I don't know what that something is," said Gary Clayton, chief
executive officer of Privacy Council Inc., a consulting firm in Dallas.
The Republicans, on the other hand, aren't going to let the Democrats
champion the cause, said Alan Westin, publisher of the Hackensack, N.J.-based
journal Privacy & American Business. "The Republicans have signaled
clearly that they are not going to let the Democrats have this issue, that
it resonates too strongly with their own constituencies," said Westin.
The Democrats would likely press for stronger legislative controls and greater
regulatory oversight, said Westin, while the Republicans would be "more
attentive" to business arguments about the practicality of legislation.
In Congress, lawmakers from both parties have proposed privacy legislation
that could affect how businesses maintain and share data.
David Sorkin, a law professor and privacy expert at the John Marshall
Law School in Chicago, said the privacy issue has prompted some strange
alliances between conservatives and liberals. "I think we're going to see
targeted legislation on specific market sectors," Sorkin said. "That has
certainly been the history of privacy regulation in this country."