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not to make the same mistakes in whatever recommendations we make.
Even though it may sound similar, our approaches are somewhat different and we are cognizant that other activities are going on which we do not want to duplicate.
Mr. HIRSCHHORN. You mentioned that there was congressional demand for copies of your hearings. Has there been significant demand outside Congress?
Mr. PLESSER. There has been significant demand. It is hard for us to know the complete degree of demand because many of those requests go directly to the reporting companies.
We have a lot and we can get you documentation on that.
We have had two letters from a Senator and a Congressman requesting easier access for the Federal depository libraries. They have said they were not getting a neat published transcript at a reasonable cost and that the duplication cost is too high. We have been getting those kinds of requests.
Mr. LINOWES. I personally have been approached on many occasions, largely from the private sector, by executives of companies, anxious for copies of our reports. I am aware there is a very strong demand for these. My personal experience is that there is demand for material coming out of our hearings.
Miss PARSONS. Although we are permitted by law to charge for the copies of the transcript, that money, were we to charge for it, would not be returnable to us. It goes back into the General Fund of the Treasury. In effect, it is a cost out of our budget which we cannot recover.
Mr. HIRSCHHORN. In the case of the private sector, have you been charging for the copies? Have they been referred to the reporting companies?
Mr. LINOWES. Referred to the reporting companies. They have been coming out of different directions. That has been one of the problems.
Mr. PLESSER. It depends. If a company has participated as a witness in our hearings, we would tend not to charge. If they have not appeared as a witness, we tend to charge.
I might say at this point as a matter of administrative convenience we send a copy of the transcript of the witness's particular testimony for them to edit, so we have in our files at this point, not from the Commissioners but from the witnesses, edited versions of their testimony. This is a common practice of congressional committees as well.
Mr. HIRSCHHORN. Assuming there is a substantial demand from the private sector for the transcripts of hearings, and also assuming that as your reports come out and publicity is given to these reports, that demand will increase, has any thought been given to the possibility of private publication?
Miss PARSONS. You mean some private organization wanting to publish them at no cost to us?
Mr. HIRSCHHORN. Yes.
Miss PARSONS. We have not looked into that. One reason I have not done so is that even were we to do that, I expect there would be an editorial cost which would have to be borne by us. I cannot pick that cost up right now.
Mr. PLESSER. I think there would also be at least a quasi-legal problem in copyright. A private corporation might then get a copyright and make redistribution difficult. That would discourage us from having that done, although that is just an off-the-cuff response. We have not thought about it.
Mr. HIRSCHHORN. Certainly there have been private publications of a lot of reports of study commissions. I would not imagine that they are copyrighted.
Mr. PLESSER. I will check it.
Mr. Higgs. Those would not be a public record. Hearings are a public record. I think there would be some problem of copyrighting those.
Mr. PLESSER. We can look into that.
Mr. HIRSCHHORN. The Second Supplemental Appropriation Act gives you $250,000, is that correct?
Mr. LINOWES. Yes.
Mr. HIRSCHHORN. You were already cut to some degree by the Appropriations Committee, although it is your hope to get that back?
Mr. LINOWES. From the $381,000 to the $250,000; that is correct.
Mr. HIRSCHHORN. If you should receive less than the amount you are seeking, do you plan to cut across the board or to drop particular areas entirely?
Mr. LINOWES. We have developed schedules. We have in place highly effective planning and program administration at the staff level. Therefore, we have identified where we would have to drop out and where we would continue. That is more or less clearly defined.
If you would like something more specific, our Deputy Executive Director and Executive Director can address themselves to the question.
Miss PARSONS. You are talking now about the consequences of no increase whatsoever in the authorization. Is that correct?
Mr. HIRSCHHORN. Not really, but what if it is less than the full $500,000?
Miss PARSONS. If we were to have nothing more than is currently authorized for us, we would have to dispense with all of our public sector projects; delay any reporting on the private sector projects until January, simply because we would not have the money for the followup work which needs to be done in order to get out a report in that area; and eliminate all the crosscutting projects except the three mandated studies which we are just now beginning. When I speak of mandated studies, I refer to the IRS, general damages question, disclosure to organizations not covered by the Privacy Act, and the Federal-State relations and separation of powers issues.
We have worked on two of those. We have a report in one area. Three are left. We would be reduced to doing only those and none of the other crosscutting projects.
In the trend assessments area, the only project we would be able to do is the technology projection study this year.
In addition, next year, while we could do a few truncated crosscutting issue projects, we would have to cut them down in scale considerably, which, given the fact the Commission goes out of existence in July and its report is due in June, is dangerous if one is concerned about the quality of the work.
We would have no trend assessment projects next year at all and we would be limited to one final report with only enough money to have a printing of 2,000 copies. That is, if we had no increase whatsoever.
Mr. HIRSCHHORN. If there is an increase of some amount, but less than $500,000, are there specific projects you would drop, or would you cut across the board?
Miss PARSONS. It is difficult to talk about that without knowing the figure. Once we knew the figure, we could then begin to prune and redistribute.
I feel very strongly, and I would like to say this for the record, that while I appreciate the concern about the scope of the mandate of the Commission and the dangers which lie in trying to do all the things that are suggested in the act, I would point out, first of all, that we are not doing all the things suggested in the act.
Next, I really feel we can accomplish the program we have laid out if the money is available to us. I do not think we are biting off more than we can chew.
Mr. HIRSCHHORN. Do you see any time problem which might lead to a request for an extension of the life of the Commission?
Miss PARSONS. I do not see it at the moment. I would, however, like to say for the record that the amount of time we have had to wait for a determination as to the cash flow situation, if you will, which particularly concerns the fiscal year expenditure limitation, is putting us in a position where there will come a point before very long where if the money is not available we will either have to kill projects or think about having a longer time in which to complete them.
I think that would be sad. Were we to have an extension of time, we would incur additional overhead costs for that additional period. The whole project then would wind up costing more than if the money were available at
the beginning. Mr. LINOWEs. The Commission itself realizes how urgently Congress needs and is awaiting some of our findings and recommendations. That was one of the reasons we put tremendous pressure on to get the Internal Revenue Service report out.
Therefore, we are making every effort and we expect to be able to abide by the 2-year tenure limitation. We feel it is appropriate for a commission of this type to call a halt within a reasonable time and submit its findings.
It would be tremendously regrettable if the period runs and we find ourselves with, say, 30 percent of our input in the pipeline and sitting there without any product because we did not have adequate budgeting in order to get that out into a usable form.
This is the reason we are devoting so much time to urging that this subcommittee and others recognize the urgency of making it possible for us to proceed in an expeditious way.
Mr. HIRSCHHORN. There was some testimony earlier, I think from Mr. Linowes, about the 36 or so different State laws in this area and your involvement with those. Are you making a full study of those laws or are you just considering them as they may come up in your recordkeeping practices hearings?
Mr. Linowes. It is interesting how we decided to give this priority. It came as a result of an address I gave to some senior policymaking executives on consumer credit. During the question period, almost every one in the room was concerned and alarmed about what was happening at the State level, because we shared Congresswoman Abzug's feeling we should give strong priority to the private sector. We viewed this aspect as part of the public sector.
We found there were at least 36 States and more being added. Therefore, we have moved our analysis forward. The problem is under rather intensive study by staff today. If you want something more specific on where we stand on that currently, I would like to suggest that Miss Parsons address herself to it.
Mr. HIRSCHHORN. Would you please do so, Miss Parsons?
Miss Parsons. When you speak of the 36 States, you are speaking about a number of States in which there is so-called privacy and fair information practice legislation pending. That raises the question of the need, alleged, by many, for preemptive Federal legislation if there were to be a fair information practice law applying to the private sector.
I will ask Mr. Plesser to speak to the work of our Office of the General Counsel with regard to identifying these statutes and other recordkeeping statutes in the States which affect the handling of personal information in the private and public sectors.
I will also point out that we view at the moment the question of the need for preemptive legislation as a question on which we wish to gather information and informed comment and judgment.
Two areas in particular that we would like to look at are credit reporting and education, because in the credit area there is not only one Federal statute, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, but also a number of State credit-reporting acts.
It appears that the Federal and State laws are working together reasonably well, but we wish to explore that and find out the facts.
Also in the education area, where we have the Buckley amendment, there are a number of State laws governing the recordkeeping practices of educational institutions.
Knowing that those are the facts of the situation, one has to approach the preemptive legislation question on its merits, even though it seems reasonable in the abstract to suggest that a law ought to be preemptive.
Mr. PLESSER. In addition to looking at the pending legislation, and analyzing the situation in five or six States where such legislation is of an omnibus nature, we are just at the point of completing a 50-State analysis of statutes, laws, regulations, and attorneys general opinions affecting the control of private sector information by State government. All this has taken us about 2 months to complete. We have had three or four law students from area schools assisting us under the guidance of my office.
We feel that upon completion of this analysis, not only will we know about omnibus statutes, but also about many other statutes, such as freedom of information statutes in particular States. We need a comprehensive view of statutes and laws which affect privacy and access to records but which may not be labeled privacy legislation. Ten or twenty years ago a lot of things were passed which were not called privacy legislation, so it is a necessary task which will be useful to us in analyzing all of our projects.
Mr. LINOWES. With your permission, I would appreciate it if we can excuse our General Counsel, Mr. Plesser. He has to make a flight to Los Angeles.
We have hearings starting tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock and it is important for him to get there this evening.
With your permission, we would like to excuse him to get right to the airport.
Mr. HIRSCHHORN. I am sure the chairwoman does not object.
In the area of banking, have your found yourselves getting into the question of electronic funds transfer?
Mr. LINOWES. Very much so. As a matter of fact, even though there is an electronic funds transfer commission, we find there is considerable overlap. Again, we found important industry spokesmen in the banking industry concerned that there not be an electronic transfer vehicle owned and controlled by the Government.
We are concerned as a commission because the centralization of information through electronic fund transfer technology places a tremendous amount of individually identifiable information under the control of very few people and very few organizations.
Thus far it appears that there is a threat of real concern. The technology is not yet in place, of course. There are many dimensions to it and we do not want to overlap what other specific committees are doing in this area.
During our hearings on banking we probed the question extensively. The banking project itself is now being digested and synthesized by staff. I do not know that we are quite set yet as to where the voids are. However, we are aware that it is a critical matter.
We are further aware, at least I have become aware not only in banking but in other areas, that some of the outstanding experts in the private sector are themselves not fully cognizant of the implications of what electronic fund transfer will create in terms of making it vulnerable to abuse.
I think I would like to have Miss Parsons add to that. She has been working closely with some of these elements as well.
Miss Parsons. I would like to point out that the Electronic Funds Transfer Commission, which is also a 2-year commission, with a total authorization of $2 million for that one study, has nine tasks mandated in its statute, one of which is the privacy and security safeguards which should be applied in an electronic funds environment. The Executive Director of the Commission said publicly about 3 weeks ago that they have ceded to the Privacy Commission for the time being the work which his Commission would otherwise have done had we not existed on the privacy aspects of their mandate because they do not want to overlap with us.
We did not ask them to do that. They themselves, looking at their own task and the amount of money they had, figured it was a good idea to have us carry the ball.
We are delighted, of course, because it is an issue that grows out of what we are doing in the consumer-credit area, but it is an additional charge on our budget.