Dean Gengle
Smith &.Gengle
P.O. Box 14431
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 474-0933


Some futurist/analyst observers of trends in both the microcomputer industry and related services sectors of the economy place a 90% saturation of the personal microcomputer market by the 1990s. While such estimates as to exactly when the microcomputer will be as ubiquitous as the automobile and television sets may be overoptimistic, the "communications revolution" is acknowledged by most. This means, practically speaking, more people using the phone lines, satellite communications channels, and computers to: send and recieve mail/messages; hold "electronic meetings,, and conferences; conduct financial transactions; access special libraries ("databases") of information; make travel arrangements; conduct clerical and managerial information tasks; publish "electronic" papers; engage in real-time and imaginary simulations;and generally shake-up the way we "do', things and perceive ourselves "doing" things. The U.S. Constitution -- specifically the Bill of Rights -- has operated largely within a non-electronic, paper environment. Rights of free speech, assembly, religion etc. have been defined in terms of how things have been done, and not in terms of how they are coning to be done or may be done in the future. What we need to do quickly, it is respectfully suggested, is to make the Bill of Rights -- human rights generally -- ex-plicit in the telecommunications processes at our disposal. This will avoid the high social costs of fighting some ancient social battles over again, on electronic terrain, i.e. battles over privacy, pornography, political Big Brotherism, and worse.

A so-called "Electronic Bill of Rights,, would, among other things, assure that electronic mail preserved two important properties of
paper mail: signatures of identity and privacy. Such a Bill of Rights would also address issues of transnational data flow, the use of private and governmental data banks, freedom of information and privacy in matters other than mail per se, such as financial and/or political data, and unforseen clashes of "right" with" right" in the information environment. This paper is a set of working notes towards such a Bill of Rights, and a primer for community discussion of the issues involved. --8012

(Copyright @ 1981 Smith & Gengle)