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Gates calls for new internet privacy laws

  • Grant Gross (Unknown Publication)
  • 10 March, 2007 22:00

Last week Microsoft chairman Bill Gates asked the US Congress to pass a comprehensive privacy law this year, allowing consumers to control how their personal information is used.

Later Gates repeated past Microsoft calls for a wide-ranging privacy law during a speech at advocacy group the Centre for Democracy and Technology's (CDT) annual gala dinner Wednesday. A comprehensive privacy bill should allow consumers to control their personal data, should provide transparency about what their data is used for, and should notify them when their data has been compromised, Gates says.

Gates believes the US can achieve a balance between privacy and protecting the country against terrorists and other criminals. But the balance will not be an easy one to create, Gates says.

While many U.S. residents would say they want as much privacy "as possible," law enforcement needs to be able to track criminals, Gates says. "These privacy issues are not as easy as you might think," he told the CDY audience.

Another balance Congress needs to strike is between emerging technologies and privacy, says Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy also called on Congress to pass a privacy law.

But a privacy law cannot restrict new technologies, Leahy says. "I don't want to stop the technologies, I want to protect our privacy," he during the gala dinner. "I think we can do both."

The US government spying on its residents is of particular concern, Leahy said. "I don't want to put a brake on technology, but on what my government can learn about me without letting me know," he said.

Meanwhile, Gates was declared the world's richest person for the 14th consecutive year, Forbes has announced as it debuted its mogul rankings for 2006.

Gates, whose estimated net worth climbed US$6 billion in 2006 to $56 billion, was joined in the top 25 by technology heavyweights Larry Ellison, chairman of Oracle, 11th place, $21.5 billion; Paul Allen, formerly of Microsoft, 19th, $18 billion; and Azim Premji, chairman of India's technology services company Wipro Technologies, 21st, $17.1 billion.

Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer, however, watched his ranking drop from 24 in 2005 to 31 even as his net worth climbed to $15 billion from $13.6 billion.

Michael Dell, the back-again CEO of Dell, placed 30th last year with $15.8 billion, a drop in both ranking (12) and worth ($17.1 billion) from 2005, mirroring the decline of the company he founded.

Other notable names on the list include Apple's CEO Steve Jobs, 132, $5.7 billion; Google's co-founders Sergey Brin, 26, $16.6 billion, and Larry Page 26, $16.6 billion, and Google's chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt, 116, $6.2 billion.