Like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) is a watchdog organization that tracks governmental actions that threaten to infringe on citizens' rights as applied to electronic access to information. The CDT is a non-profit public interest organization based in Washington, DC. CDT's mission is "to develop and advocate public policies that advance constitutional civil liberties and democratic values in new computer and communications technologies." Information about the organization and how to join appears at the end of the home page in "About CDT."
With privacy a key concern of the CDT, the tracking and coding of information transmitted on the Internet get upfront attention with links atop the page to a privacy demonstration and a conference on encryption. The CDT Privacy Demonstration is an eye-opening experience that shatters any illusions one has about anonymity on the Internet. The demo displays information that was extracted during the current visit to the demonstration page. Also included in the demo are explanations of client-side persistent information ("Cookies"), the types of information collected, and why surfers should care. A link to the "Anonymizer" which enables Internet travelers to visit sites without leaving a trail of personal data is provided at the end of the page. The encryption debate is highlighted with a link to the "SAFE (Security and Freedom through Encryption) Forum." Featured within the Cryptography Policy Issues Page, the SAFE Forum was the 1996 conference of members of Congress, prominent computer industry leaders, and privacy advocates who met to discuss the need to reform U.S. encryption policy. Transcripts of the forum are available in textual and audio format.
The "Headlines" section focuses on currently developing issues. The headlined items provide comprehensive and timely coverage of executive, legislative, and judicial actions. Current issues, ranging of late from the Communications Decency Act to health information access to the proposed anti-terrorism legislation, receive headlines that are added to other sections of the home page, as appropriate.
Serving as the core of the site are the "Issues" pages. Each page covers a public policy debate involving electronic information and civil liberties. Some of the issues covered are counter-terrorism and the encryption debate, censorship on the Internet, the debate over control of voice transmission, and privacy. Public documents and statements by the principles involved in the debate, as well as CDT position papers, are presented. Texts of Senate testimony, judicial decisions, press releases, statements by the President , and editorials from the Washington Post and New York Times are among the material provided. The latest developments appear first, followed by previous headlines, followed by background material. This presentation of the information allows the viewer to reach new material quickly and to go only as deeply into the material as needed. Novices may take objection to the jargon-laden titles of the issues pages and all visitors may get lost in the duplication of topics within pages. For example, encryption is covered in both the Counter-Terrorism and Digital Telephony Pages. The Communications Decency Act debate falls in both the Net-Censorship Page and the CIEC: Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition Page. It is not clear from the front page annotation that the Digital Infrastructure Page contains the debate over the regulation of the transmission of audio on the Internet and the efforts of the telecommunications industry to control voice service.
The "Publications" page rounds out the site by gathering in one place the CDT's position papers and "Policy Posts" that appear throughout the various issue pages. These publications clearly layout the facts surrounding the policy debates.
Students and faculty that are investigating public policy questions that involve electronic information access, privacy, and civil liberties will be very well-served by the CDT's pages. Librarians will find a gold mine on the legal battle surrounding the Communications Decency Act, in which the American Library Association figured so prominently.
Inga H. Barnello
Le Moyne College
Syracuse, NY 13214-1399