Privacy: Companies should inform customers how data about their online activities will be used, according to voluntary guidelines issued by the Washington-based Information Technology Industry Council. The guidelines are part of industry efforts to weaken pressure for privacy-protecting regulation that would curb companies' lucrative collection and exploitation of data about their online customers' purchasing preferences.

Online Commerce: The Commerce Department is planning to hold a conference in February to discuss online privacy, content ratings, online advertising, as well as the establishment of safe "Greenspaces" for kids.

Taxes: Expect the Republicans in Congress to renew their verbal and legislative attacks on the Internal Revenue Service, as part of an overall tax reform plank leading up to the 1998 elections. The pending proposal to put the IRS policymaking under an outside board may be strengthened with extra vote-getting restrictions on the IRS.

Encryption: The controversy over campaign donations during the 1996 presidential election could weaken FBI Director Louis Freeh's campaign for tough controls on the sale and use of impossible-to-crack encryption technology, say industry lobbyists. Freeh's support for an independent counsel to direct a fund-raising inquiry could diminish his influence within the Clinton administration, so helping industry, says industry lobbyist Jerry Berman, director of the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology.

The Senate: One of the Internet's best friends in the Senate, Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has decided to run for a fifth six-year term in 1998, ending speculation that he would retire. Leahy is a steady opponent of government restrictions on encryption and online content curbs.

Porn: Justice Department officials are drafting a white paper intended to show how school and library officials can legally shield children from controversial online content, without violating the Constitution's free-speech protections.

More Encryption: Three federal judges in California have begun reviewing an earlier decision by one federal judge who decided that the federal restrictions on encryption exports violate the Constitution's free-speech protections. The decision, Bernstein vs. Department of State, is being appealed by the Justice

-Neil Munro

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