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Edwards Speaks Out About Online Privacy, Carnivore Program

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RALEIGH — North Carolina Senator John Edwards has some ideas on how to protect your privacy on the World Wide Web.

Edwards is co-sponsor of some privacy bills before the Senate. Dot-coms and other Internet businesses say they are regulating themselves when it comes to person information. TheFederal Trade Commissionsays that is not enough.

"Legislation is necessary to get at the holes in the swiss cheese. Those who are out there who are doing nothing," says FTC commissioner Mozelle Thompson. "I think consumers have a right, an expectation, of how they're going to be treated on the Internet"

Businesses admit more needs to be done in terms of educating users about privacy, but IBM public affairs spokesman Christopher Mustain says self-regulation is working.

"Right now, we've got about 95 percent of all commercial Internet traffic being conducted on sites that do tell people what their information practices are," he says.

TheFBIwants to begin using a program called Carnivore, a filter placed on Internet Service Providers' equipment. Approved by a court order, it could trace all Internet traffic to and from a suspect's computer.

Edwards says lawmakers face a challenge when it comes to protecting privacy and enabling the FBI to do its job.

"Those things are constantly in conflict and part of what we're trying to do is strike the right balance. I think Carnivore is just another example," he says.

Congress will likely act on some proposed privacy legislation; however, the issue of Carnivore has struck a nerve and the courts will decide whether it should be used.

The Federal Trade Commission contends Internet privacy legislation would encourage people to shop on the Internet and give consumers more confidence in e-commerce.