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EPIC grades privacy efforts in Obama administration


By Joseph Conn
Posted: September 9, 2009 - 12:01 am ET
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Before President Barack Obama takes center stage tonight in a scheduled, nationally televised address to Congress on healthcare reform, and a day after Obama's televised address to school children, the president's administration is to receive a report card of its own from a host of privacy advocates on federal privacy policies.

The Privacy Coalition, an organization with more than 40 member groups, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, both based in Washington, D.C., were scheduled to hand out their grades on privacy for the first eight months of the Obama administration during a news conference this morning at the National Press Club. The report card is to cover medical privacy, consumer protection, civil liberties and cyber-security.

EPIC is known for its litigation, including its suit against telecommunications company AT&T over the domestic privacy implications of the warrantless wiretapping program conducted by the Bush administration in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. EPIC also has a track record in healthcare. Last year, EPIC and the Austin, Texas,-based Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, both Privacy Coalition members, sent a joint letter requesting that online search giant Google disclose the underlying methodology of its Google Flu Trends search function. EPIC followed this March by filing a 15-page complaint with the Federal Trade Commission seeking an injunction against Google's cloud computing operations, alleging the company “does not adequately safeguard the confidential information that it obtains.”

In 2007, EPIC also weighed in with a “friend of the court” brief in support of a New Hampshire state law that bans the sale of prescriber-identifiable prescription drug data for marketing purposes. The ban was upheld by the courts.

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