From: Michael Sondow []
Sent: Sunday, February 27, 2000 6:05 PM
Subject: Comments for The Advisory Committee

Dear Advisory Committee,

These comments are submitted to the Advisory Committee in the spirit of constructive criticism.

First, the Committee's purpose is variously given on your website as "Online Access and Security" and "Online Privacy". As is well known, these are not the same thing, and are frequently even in contradiction with each other when their point of view is that of ecommerce vendors and consumers, respectively. Wouldn't it be a good idea to clarify from the outset what the subject matter of the Committee really is?

In this regard, one would suppose that the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection would be a more ardent proponent of the latter rather than the former, that is, of Online Privacy, which is a consumer protection issue. The need for security in financial transactions is more an ecommerce issue than a consumer protection issue, or is at least a minor issue in the panoply of invasions of privacy occurring on the Internet, which includes such abuses as the selling of customers' private data to third parties and covert surveillance.

Then, if the orientation of the Committee is towards consumer protection and online privacy, why are only a minority of the paticipants representatives of the consumer public, and a majority representatives of either ecommerce or for-profit Internet infrastructure companies? When I posed this question to someone at the FTC, I was told that the consumer protection issues had already
been defined and what was needed was to get ecommerce to agree. At first, this sounds like a reasonable explanation for the disparity of representation on the Committee; but how will the ecommerce representatives understand and be duly influenced by the privacy needs of consumers if they do not hear them from a sufficient number of committee members?

Lastly, even the few representatives of non-commercial interests on the Committee are not, with the possible exception of Mr. Torres from Consumers Union, true consumers of Internet and ecommerce services. They are representatives of supposed public interest Internet non-profit corporations, which is not the same thing at all, since those non-profit corporations are made up almost exclusively of Internet technical people and their lawyers. Why are there not more consumers, or representatives of consumers like the Nader organization, on the Committee, to balance the influence on it of commercial power?

Michael Sondow           I.C.I.I.U.
Tel. (718)846-7482                        Fax: (603)754-8927