Tuesday, November 30, 2004


The New York Times > Obituaries > Ronald L. Plesser, 59, Lawyer, Is Dead

The New York Times > Obituaries > Ronald L. Plesser, 59, Lawyer, Is Dead
Ronald L. Plesser, 59, Lawyer, Is Dead

onald L. Plesser, a privacy lawyer who helped ease access to government records and shape policy on access to personal e-mail messages, customer databases and other innovations of the electronic age, died on Nov. 18 at Washington Dulles International Airport. He was 59 and lived in Washington.

His death, apparently caused by a heart attack, was announced by the law firm of Piper Rudnick, where Mr. Plesser was a partner and chairman of the electronic commerce and privacy practice group.

For three decades, first as a litigator for a group started by Ralph Nader and later as a corporate lawyer, Mr. Plesser helped civil liberties advocates, policy makers and businesses negotiate privacy matters. He influenced policies and statutes restricting the use of cable subscriber information, video-rental records, cellphone conversations and e-mail messages, among other things.

"It is very difficult to think of a privacy statute that's been enacted over the last 25 years that Ron didn't have some responsibility for," said Jerry Berman, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a public policy group in Washington.

In the 1970's, as a trial lawyer for the Nader group, the Center for Study of Responsive Law, Mr. Plesser listed what he saw as flaws in the Freedom of Information Act, which provides public access to government records. His report prompted Congress to amend the statute in 1974, and in 1976 he became general counsel of the Privacy Protection Study Commission, which monitored compliance with the revised act.

Later in his career, Mr. Plesser represented corporations like Time Warner, MCI, Viacom and Netscape in electronic privacy cases, often persuading them that protecting their customers' information was in their interest. Meanwhile, he convinced privacy advocates of the benefits of information technologies.

He represented clients in shaping at least a dozen federal statutes, including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, the Can-Spam Act, the USA Patriot Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Ronald Louis Plesser was born May 28, 1945, in Queens. He received a bachelor's degree and law degree from George Washington University.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara Gould Plesser; two children, Jeremy Daniel and Michelle Dianne; a brother, Andrew, of Great Neck, N.Y.; a sister, Lori Brennen, of Spotsylvania, Va.; and his mother, Eunice Plesser, of Rockville, Md.


from Julie Garcia...

had the extremely good fortune to work with Ron Plesser at Piper & Marbury in the mid-1990s. It is hard to know what I can add to the heartfelt and articulate postings here, but like some of the other contributors, I can't stop thinking about Ron and wishing I had kept in closer contact. I echo all of the sentiments about Ron's warmth and openness and humor and intelligence and zest for life.

Among my favorite memories is that of attending meetings at which we were attempting to draft language that would reconcile a number of divergent views. Frequently Ron would open the meetings by offering a solution; others around the table would shoot it down for a number of reasons. Ron would just sit back and let the rest of us battle it out for an hour or two or twenty until we all came around to understanding that the only acceptable compromise was the position he had initially suggested. And he was rarely smug about it ;-)

I have been affected by Ron's death, which of course means that I have been affected by Ron's presence in my life, much more strongly than I would have anticipated. I plan to keep the photo of Ron that Barbara so graciously shared with me after the memorial service in an obvious spot, where I will look at it often and honor Ron's memory by appreciating the incredible blessings of my life. I will strive to follow his example in not only touching the lives of people close to me, but embracing them wholeheartedly and without reservation.

Our lives are better for having known Ron Plesser, as is the world.

Sunday, November 28, 2004


A Privacy Writing Competition...in honor of Ron

As we explore things we can do to honor Ron, why don't we hold a privacy article writing competition in his name?

I am happy to do it under the Wired Safety non-profit program I run for which Ron acted as a member of the advisory board. We can do one for law students, one for college students and one for high school students. We can brand the one for high school students under our Internet Super Heroes brand, using the Marvel comic characters. I am just as happy to work with others hosting it under other non-profit groups if anyone prefers.

Our teenangels (teenangels.org), whom he had trained in privacy matters, suggested this to honor him. They suggested three categories: communications, technology and law. They thought that the communications category could contain media relations, public policy andbest practices. They thought the technology would deal with the code, software and hardware issues. And they hoped the law category would cover international legal issues.

A small honorarium could be offered, and perhaps this could lead to scholarships and programs in his name? Many who have posted in this blog are the leading experts in privacy law and policy in the world. Perhaps you would be willing to help judge this competition?


p.s. to see the Marvel characters we are involving in the Internet privacy education and awareness programs, check out internetsuperheroes.org. Ron was helping us build out the privacy section, which is not yet launched. :-(

from Robert Barnett

I was so very sorry to learn of Ron's passing.

I have worked with Ron on privacy, FTC, and other issues for more years than I care to count. Professionally, we was the best -- smart, hardworking, dedicated, innovative, and a real leader in his field.

But, the things I will remember come from the personal side of Ron Plesser. He was fun, warm, caring, and inquisitive. A meeting, a lunch, or an encounter with Ron on the street was always a delight. His interests ranged far and wide. We often talked politics. He had strong views, but they were always well-informed.

Whenever we would be working on something and I would take what Ron considered a "radical" (or unacceptable) view, Ron would exclaim, "Yikes !!!!" That became our catch-phrase -- and our ritual greeting. When I heard of Ron's passing, my first reaction was "Yikes !!!!"

Many of us have lost a colleague. Many more have lost a dear friend.

I join in sending heartfelt sympathies to Barbara and Ron's family. We shall not see his likes again. Rest in peace, Ron.


Robert B. Barnett
Williams & Connolly LLP

Thursday, November 25, 2004


Ron's obituary - Privacy Law Expert Ronald L. Plesser Dies (washingtonpost.com)

Privacy Law Expert Ronald L. Plesser Dies (washingtonpost.com)

A post about Ron at my The Privacy Lawyer blog

The Privacy Lawyer This is the story I promised to share about how he and I became friends.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


A message from Barbara Plesser and the family

Barbara and Ron's family have asked me to convey their thanks for your warm and caring posts and the outpouring of love from all who knew him. She is an Internet novice and will not be posting herself, but wants everyone to know how much this means to her.

I also want to personally thank you for everything you are sharing and for taking the time to post and comment, or e-mail me.

Tomorrow, at our Thanksgiving tables we should remember how thankful we are to have known Ron and to know each other.


A link to this blog by Richard Sweetenham, who founded Quicklinks, the leading e-newsletter about Internet law and policy worldwide.

Richard, as always, thank you for your kind generosity in mentioning this and helping us get the word out worldwide about Ron's sad and untimely death.

A Memorial Service in NY- This Friday 11/26 at 11am

For anyone in the New York area, we are having memorial this Friday 11/26 at the Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Queens at 11 a.m. Thank you again, Andy Plesser, aplesser@plesser.com


from Ron's brother, Andy Plesser

Thank you for this wonderful outpouring for my brother Ron who will be missed by all of us. He would have been grateful for your insights and thoughts.

I know his work and impact will outlast his passing.

For anyone in the New York area, we are having memorial this Friday 11/26 at the Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Queens at 11 a.m. Thank you again, Andy Plesser, aplesser@plesser.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


from Cynthia Braddon

Parry -

I just learned of the blog you set up for Ron. This is a wonderful thing you have done. You have given so many of us an opportunity to reflect on how much we valued Ron as a professional colleague and a friend. Ron was one of the first individuals I met early in my career who took an interest in helping me learn my way through the information industry lobbying world. I studied Ron and tried to emulate his ability to thoroughly understand all sides of an issue and help move people toward a workable solution, with an appropriate amount of compromise or incremental steps along a longer path. He was always willing to sit down and share the history of an issue or a law, or why an organization or an individual had a certain view. We often worked as allies on information industry policy issues and I came to recognize it was always better to have Ron on your side than sitting on the other side of the negotiating table. We used to joke about how we were making the world safe for content and our customers.

Always a gentleman, always smart and thoughtful, Ron did so much to shape the framework for privacy and intellectual property and First Amendment protections in an on-line world. He will be sorely missed and always be remembered as someone who really did make an important and lasting footprint.

From a personal perspective, he was always a friend, always there with a smile and to share about our families. Even when our paths didn't cross for years at a time, we'd see each other and pick right up where we had left off. I will miss him and wish I had taken the opportunity to tell him directly how much he meant to me as a person and a professional who had taught me so much. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends as they mourn their loss and celebrate his life.


Cynthia H. Braddon
Vice President, Government Affairs
The McGraw-Hill Companies


from Tim Casey

My sincerest condolences to Ron's family, his friends and his colleagues. I am sure he will be missed by you all - he will certainly be missed by me.

I had the great pleasure of hiring Ron and his firm to work for me on Internet legislation when I was at MCI, which led to spending a lot of time with Ron over a period of years. Perhaps our greatest achievements together were in making sure bad things didn't happen, but much good sprang forth from Ron as well. I had no idea what I was doing at the federal level when I started and learned everything I could from Ron - I will always be grateful for his kind soul, his enormous intellect, and his lessons on how to be a nice guy that didn't get taken advantage of by others.

I envy those of you who had seen him lately, for I had not, having moved to a different firm and out of the everyday policy world. We traveled in different planes now and I saw him rarely, but I will never forget. I had been meaning to call him to tell him I was moving back west, getting back into policy, and to arrange a get together. Sigh.

Thanks, Ron, for all the wonderful memories!

Tim Casey


from Jules Polonetsky

I last saw Ron at the IAPP conference in New Orleans. He was sitting in the back of the room during a plenary session, near the back door. As people came in, they noticed Ron and rushed over to pay their respects. I went over, kidding aloud that he was like the Godfather, with all of us coming over to acknowledge him. Ron held out his ring :)

I will miss his leadership, counsel, and sense of humor.

Jules Polonetsky
Dulles, VA


from Peter Harter

Dear Ron,

I am a better person for having known you and through you so many wonderful people. Over ten years ago you helped introduce me to the ways in which Washington, DC, works. It was the Communications Decency Act via Senator Exon. S. 1814 I think. From the CDA, to cookies at the FTC, to copyright on the Hill to za bunkair! And of course, the grand coalition we formed in 1996 to change export control laws on encryption. You were crazy enough at the time to jump in with both feet. So many others doubted anything could be done to turn the tide on key-escrow or to move the Administration. I recall taking many meetings with you on the subject. I think the most memorable was the meeting you arranged in the White House for my boss Roberta Katz with Vice President Al Gore. Greg Simon was your connection on the inside. To this day I remain in contact with Greg. Al Gore, however, does not return my emails. ;-)

Post AOL buying Netscape I'm afraid we lost contact. I regret that our work did not continue to keep us in close contact. I fondly recall many late evenings hunkered down in your offices (Piper Marbury at the
time...) with Jim Halpert, Julia Garcia and others from the early days of online law and policy, hacking away at the legislative process, crafting careful code that balanced interests along the wire connecting the Internet to the content people, the pipe people, and the software people. Parsing interests, ignorance, impatience, insecurity, and an i-revolution you really were a unique bird my friend.

And Stu Ingis put it best on Sunday afternoon - you touched people personally and professionally. Generous with your love of life and family you opened your home and weekend in Annapolis to me and Louisa Gosling, my girlfriend at the time visiting the US from Brussels. She is now in Melbourne and I've sent her a note with photograph from Marc Pearl of our infamous dinner. You are of course at the head of the table and Louisa is on the right.

Today I wonder why I did not make more of an effort to visit with you here in DC. I moved here in September and work a block from your office. After seeing so much of you in the faces of your friends on Sunday I do know that we can visit a bit each time your network of friends and colleagues meet.

All the best to you on your new journey.

Peter Harter


from Toby Levin

I would like to join the Privacy Community in expressing my sorrow regarding the death of Ron Plesser. Others have already noted in their remarks the valuable contributions Ron made both to raising the important privacy issues of the day and to crafting strategies to address them.

I had the honor of working closely with Ron when he negotiated the settlement on behalf of GeoCities in the first FTC privacy case back in early 1999 and again when he represented the DMA during the drafting of COPPA. I was always pleased to work with Ron because he would focus on resolving issues and often had just the right solutions to offer.

He was always honest and direct in working with FTC staff and was a frequent participant in our workshops. I respected his sharp analysis on privacy issues and valued his efforts to inform industry on FTC actions. Most of all, I always found Ron to be a warm and caring person.

We frequently shared stories about our children, and it was clear that he valued knowing me as an individual. We could talk about everyday problems as well as the latest FTC news, and I knew he would always great me with a warm bear hug if we had not seen each other in a long time. I know Ron has left a big hole in our Washington community that won't be filled. I will think of him often.

Toby Levin, Federal Trade Commission


from Michael Geist

Thanks for doing this Parry. Like everyone who encountered him, I
greatly enjoyed spending time with Ron. He was a great leader in the privacy field and I feel privileged having known him. My first lengthy
conversation with Ron occurred when we shared a train from Schipol
airport to the Hague in advance of an ODR conference. My wife, who is
a family physician, accompanied me on the trip and the three of us
chatted about many things, few related to privacy. For years
afterward, he would always ask how the "doctor" was doing and ask that
I pass along regards. I always appreciated that he remembered the
family connection and took the time to ask how things were going. Ron
was giant in the privacy world but, even more, he was a giant of a man.

He will be greatly missed.

Professor Michael A. Geist
Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law University of
Ottawa Law School, Common Law Section

some thoughts about Ron and me...weight and work...the highs and lows of our lives

This is a blog after all, and that means we can ramble a bit when talking about Ron.

I called my best friend who had met Ron once when he attended one of our kids summits at the Senate. (He was a member of our advisory board at WiredSafety.org/WiredKids.org and always took time to help us and work with the kids when they were in DC.)

I was lamenting that Ron and I had rarely shared our personal lives. I didn't know his wife or children, I knew very little about him other than his work and our most frequent topic, our weights. :-) We would look each other over when we met, and either comment on how the other had lost weight, or kept our mouths shut if they hadn't. We kept our mouths shut more often than not.

Work and weight. Interesting continuous discussions, and enough to keep us very busy for years. I was dieting or he was. I was contemplating surgery, or he was. One of us needed a special restaurant for our diet of the week, or to keep the lunch short because of our client of the week (or in Ron's case, lifetime :-))

We exchanged names of diet doctors like others did a good barber. We compared and contrasted South beach and Atkins, gastric by-pass surgery and banding, fasting and binging. We talked miracle weight-loss promises, hope and heartbreak.

My girlfriend just listened while I cried about how much Ron and I had talked about. And how little.

He shared the early days with Nader. How he made no money but helped frame the structure of privacy in the US. (He didn't put it that way, I did). He shared how being in the right place at the right time allowed him to be part of nation-shaping legislation, such as the wiretap and government privacy laws. He shared fun stories about other privacy giants and how no one knew anything in the early days, and is now seen as knowing everything now. He shared his legal reasoning and his thoughts about TIVO, new-age privacy issues, the PATRIOT Act and the election. We talked about clients and work, and he reminded me about how we had finally become friends, instead of just panel and roundtable-mates at the conferences around the world. (I'll share that in another post, if I have had enough to drink :-))

When I was finished ranting, I heard her sniffle a bit. I knew that she remembered his kindness to her two kids at the Summit and knew she wanted to somehow comfort me.

"There is nothing more personal with you, Parry, than weight and work." she said. Then she waited for me to understand what she had just said. "It's the high and the low of your life and perhaps, Ron's life too." And she was right.

My life's work is helping others online with problems they encounter with cybercrimes and abuses. Kids, adults, seniors, identity theft, predators, misinformation, cyberbullying and harassment...my life's mission is my work now that I have left my law practice and only do a few consulting gigs to pay my mortgage. Ron's life was privacy. Clients, public policy, legal work and running a practice group, and changing the world more than a little bit.

And both of us failed on the weight front. I lost some, but not enough. He lost less, and maybe it shortened his incredible life. He succeeded in his professional life and given the enormity of the grieving I have seen and the countless comments received by people who loved and admired him, succeeded in everything else.

Both of us shared our biggest vulnerabilities with each other and our greatest successes and dreams for change and policy.

I knew him better than I thought. I miss him even more now.



from Fran Maier

Like Austin, I was new to the privacy world when I joined TRUSTe in 2001. Early on we hosted a dinner at one of the privacy conferences and Ron joined us. He was a real helpful, providing some early guidance on the who’s who, how to build our standing, and several new ideas. He got to know several of my colleagues at TRUSTe and we all loved him. But what I remember most is his graciousness, his sense of humor, his humanity. We all sit at different ends of the table and he was always a pleasure to dine with.

And yes, let’s live our one life fully with a good belly laugh, good friends, and good work.

Fran Maier


from Emil Hackett

Ron would be pleased to know he pissed me off.

His reputation had preceded him long before I met or worked with him. For a number of years I was very happy to be off his radar screen.

When he started talking to me at receptions, in airports, at conferences, in meetings, it was a professional milestone for me. Wouldn't he get a kick out of my thinking that.

It also scared me. I never ever wanted to cross Ron Plesser deliberatly or by mistake.

I was more than OK with Milo, Stew, and Jim. The man himself put me on my toes and on edge.

The last time I met with Ron was the day before he died. We were meeting to iron out a matter. Here I was pissing him off, my worst nightmare. I think it all worked out. There were no hugs that day due to the cold I now know. He did take my hand in his two, gave a warm squeeze, and a puppy dog look. That look that is a cross between "I didn't mean to do it" and "please forgive me." It startled me.

That he wanted Leonard Cohen's "Bird on the Wire" played at his funeral made pefect sense to me.

Ron was not your average guy. He was not a simple joe. Maybe I wasn't scared or pissed. Maybe I was in awe.

It will just not be as much fun or challenging without him.

Emily Hackett


from Deirdre K. Mulligan

Ron was a respected colleague, a friend, a mentor, a wonderful advocate, a challenging opponent, and always a mensch. I had spoken with him the Friday before he died. We talked about his son recently off to Hamilton College, my hope for a future conference and his potential participation, our busy lives, wonderful families and how blessed we both were. A typical conversation with Ron, running the gamut from professional to personal. I am so sorry for his family and colleagues at Piper. What a terrible loss. I will miss him dearly.

Deirdre K. Mulligan


from Tatiana Platt (nee Gau)

Like many of us who have been involved in privacy policy issues, I too was fortunate to have my life touched by Ron Plesser. The last time that I saw him was not at a privacy conference, not at a senate hearing, not at a working group meeting of some sort. Rather, it was on a plane -- the Delta shuttle returning from NYC to DC on the eve of my wedding. I had just had my final fitting of my wedding dress that day and Ron and I spoke about it. I was a nervous, stressed out bride and Ron had nothing but the right advice to give. He said I would take my husband's breath away no matter what. It's now been one month since my wedding and looking back I hope that Ron knows that he had just the right words, he was a brilliant man who was there for many of us. I will long remember Ron.

Tatiana Platt (nee Gau)


from Jerry Berman and CDT

Ron Plesser will be sorely missed as a friend and as a colleague.
He will be remembered as someone who worked over the last 25 years
to promote privacy and civil liberties values in the age of computer
data bases and the revolutionary development of new communications
technologies and the Internet.

Going back to his work with the Privacy Protection Study Commission
in the mid 1970's, Ron Plesser educated all of us about threats to
privacy in the computer age but also the social value of new
technologies in our life. He thus saw the need to find policy
solutions that both recognized the value of computer technology in
government and commerce but also established privacy and civil
liberties protections for citizens and consumers .

It is almost impossible to think of landmark privacy statutes over
the last 25 years that could have been enacted without Ron Plesser's
efforts to find workable solutions that balanced competing interests
to make legislation possible.

Statutes establishing privacy for cable subscriber information,
email and cell phones, and video rental records all have his stamp.

Plesser's legacy is not limited to privacy. He helped to craft the
modern Freedom of Information Act and then to update it to give
citizens access to electronic public information.

Plesser was the expert at the table. He knew the law, the
technology, the players, the threads that had to be weaved together
to build consensus and make privacy and technology policy happen.
We, who worked with him on technology policy and legislation
respected him, loved him dearly, and will miss him beyond words.

Jerry Berman
Center for Democracy and Technology

Sunday, November 21, 2004


from Michael Nelson....

Thanks so much for setting up a blog for Ron Plesser. It's only appropriate that he have an online memorial.

I first met Ron more than twelve years ago when I was working on the Hill on the High-Performance Computing Act for then-Senator Gore. Even back then, he had an impressive grasp of the legal and societal implications of what was then a relatively-unknown technology called the Internet. Later, when I was at the White House working on the 1996 Telecommunications Act and the Clinton Administration's e-commerce policies, my colleagues and I relied upon Ron a great deal for wise advice on a range of Internet issues, ranging from online privacy to encryption to cyberporn. While we didn't always accept his recommendations, we knew his analysis would be sound and fair. Even more importantly, we valued his quick wit and his commitment to doing what was right for Internet users and the country.

I cannot count all the times over the last twelve years that I have quoted Ron or suggested that someone talk to him. Washington and the world have lost an invaluable source of advice on cyberlaw at a time when Internet policy has never been more important.

Ron, you are gone but the impact of your work will live on.

Michael R. Nelson
Director, Internet Technology and Strategy
IBM Corporation


from Liz Hogan

When I returned from his Memorial Service, I called his office number. I wanted to hear Ron's voice. It was too late. The answering voice messaging system has been changed. But, I really wanted to hear his "voice."

A policy advisor to MCI, I was able to engage Ron to help me on some serious issues on Capitol Hill several years ago that could adversely impact our company at the time. I knew he was smart. I knew he knew the legal history behind all and any technology issues. The majority of the issues concerned the emerging Internet. The Internet was almost an unknown issue at the time. A bill to regulate it, sponsored in the Senate, was primed to be included in the '96 Telecom Act. It's inclusion would make Internet service providers completely liable for transmitting all and any information over the Internet. Ron's knowledge, reputation, and expertise, helped to make significant changes to the bill after a long, long process that included unending hours of negotiations. I begged the company to maintain his service for us as other Internet as well as privacy issues began to unfold in the forthcoming Congresses. Ron sat at the table throughout all these negotiations, and managed, expertly, to negotiate reasonable and feasible legislation in a time that many legislators were lacking in technical knowledge.

The "voice" would often call in the office and at my home. My then teenage daughters knew the "voice" and would quickly pass along the phone to me. Ron, still in his office, or wherever, would want a final ok. on something, or pass along new intelligence, or, sometimes, just to chat about a previous meeting we had, or catch up on my family life, or you-name-it. I loved that voice. I loved it while working with him on the Hill. I loved it when we'd go to football games. I loved it when he showed up for conferences I asked him to participate in, and I loved it when he called to wish me well on my retirement. I regret now that I don't have a recording of the "voice." It was a masterful, all-consuming voice filled with spirit, intensity and love.

A few years back, very late in the day, I'd often be in Ron's office with him signing off on letters, bill language, etc., and though the paperwork had been all around the world and back, Ron still needed a last good look. He often made changes. Unbelievable. He was such a perfectionist. Such a good lawyer. So very bright and shining. He is still shining, I believe.

I wept, like so many, when I heard Ron passed away. Truthfully, I dreamed that night that Ron and I attended his memorial service. He wanted so much to know who was attending, because he so much wanted all and every person he worked with to be part of his "family." I believe late in my dream, he was happy. He loved being loved and loved loving.

I feel so honored that I knew this "voice" and that I learned so much from this exceptional expert and friend.

There are so few who have touched and made a definitive mark in my life as to its meaning and greatness. Ron is on top of the list.

Liz Hogan

from Peter Swire....

I don’t know how many times I have had the pleasure of talking with Ron Plesser at a privacy conference, but I’m sure I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count.

One day I remember most about Ron is when he agreed to have breakfast with me shortly after I entered the government in 1999. A friend had suggested that I try to learn from the “wise men” (wise persons) in the field, and Ron was at the top of my list.

At breakfast, Ron gave a personal and wonderful history of privacy as a political and policy issue in Washington, D.C. He talked about his early work with the Nader folks in the fight to expand the Freedom of Information Act. He talked about what he did with the Privacy Protection Study Commission in the 1970s. He talked about globalization, and direct marketing, and a dozen other topics.

As a lifelong policy wonk, I reveled in the wonderful insights that Ron was sharing. As a person, though, I remember the bond of shared humanity in our discussion, both that morning and ever since.

Ron had a sort of gruff voice and tone. Plus, his job sometimes was to say the uncomfortable truths in a debate that others wouldn’t want to hear: “This proposal won’t work because ….” In hearing him for the first time, one could mistakenly think him tough or hard.

But he wasn’t. Ron had a special warmth in how he approached the people around him. When I had a sick child in my family, he would always remember to ask. When he himself faced problems, such as with heart surgery a couple of years ago, the rest of us could only hope to match the way he had treated us in our times of trouble.

Those of us who care about privacy should think together about what we can do to honor Ron’s legacy.

Peter Swire

from Austin Hill.....

I first met Ron 6 years ago on an FTC panel on privacy. It was my first time appearing on an FTC panel, and looking back I now see just how naive I was in my 'technology can fix all' views on privacy. Ron was on a couple panels before me, representing the DMA - and I was eager to 'Debate' his views during our panel.

Being young and eager - I now look back and imagine myself like a hyper puppy snapping at a big friendly dog who could have easily put me in my place with a single bark - but rather, he really enjoyed to 'play'. Our debate was enthusiastic and we added a lot of fun banter to the panel (I seem to remember just the two of us mixing it up). Funny thing was, I thought I might of gotten a rise out of him (In all honesty, I was trying to goad him - the whole 'Stick it to the man' thing) but he approached me after the panel and was the nicest person. He was friendly, funny and we had a good laugh.

Over the last 6 years, I've had the pleasure of seeing Ron probably 3-4 times a year. He always asked about my family that he had met, was always ready to pick up a conversation we didn't quite finish some 3 months before. Once he came to a privacy conference I hosted in Quebec and we sat around a huge log cabin with 100 other privacy folks for 4 days and he entertained us for hours with funny stories 'privacy' war stories. I realized what a polished veteran he really was and began to look upon Ron as a friend & someone I could learn a lot from.

Ron was always friendly, caring and one of the smartest people I met when it came to being able to see, understand and discuss the same issue from every point of view. It was at times frustrating, especially hard to win debates, but always refreshing.

Professionally he always had something worthwhile to say to me. Personally I just enjoyed his humor, wit and views on life.

The privacy community will not be the same without him.

-Austin Hill


from Brian Tretick....

I met Ron in 98 just after the OPA got up and running. He was an impressive presence, but I didn't understand the context. Fortunately, he grew into not just a colleague but a friend.

I realize that he'll leave a void in our small community. But I think of his family, and pain they must feel. I also know it will be an enormous loss among his team, with Phyliss, Stu, Alisa, Milo, Jim, and the rest. How difficult it will be to continue to move forward. We should remember them as well.

Just Wednesday the 17th, Ron was introduced at a luncheon at which he was speaking. He was described as a grandfather of privacy. He courteously begged that on others. I rather saw him as the Godfather. I hope he is at peace.

Brian Tretick

Saturday, November 20, 2004


from George Vradenburg...

Thank you, Parry, for doing this.

I met Ron shortly after I came to AOL in the mid-90's. He served as our counsel on privacy issues for years. His counsel was consistently balanced, wise and -- yes -- smart. I always looked forward to our meetings, knowing that I would inevitably learn something and leave better informed than when I arrived. Ron had a kind heart, a deep affection for and loyalty to his clients and a personally engaging manner.

George Vradenburg

I did not get to know Ron well on a personal level, and now regret deeply that I did not.

Ron's death felt even more personal perhaps because I had a serious heart attack three years ago. I lived, he died. Life is so, so fragile, and must be enjoyed every single day.


from Kay Pauley

Ron's been my boss for almost 12 years, and I knew him for several years before that, working for one of his clients. Ron, I miss you so much, and wish you hadn't had to leave us so soon.

You were at the top of your game, having concluded achieving a significant legislative victory while waiting for your plane at Dulles, and looking forward to an important trip to Paris.

Somehow, we'll go on without you, but right now I can't imagine it. I love you, and will never forget you and all that I've learned from you.

Kay Pauley
Electronic Commerce & Privacy Group
Piper Rudnick LLP


from Vint Cerf...


Ironically, I wish Ron could read your lovely tribute to him and to the dream he did not have the chance to live. I shed a few tears on reading your moving prose and confess that your poignant thoughts reminded me of the fragility and finiteness of life. We owe it to ourselves, if it is humanly possible, to balance our work lives with the rest of our being. Thank you, both for this kind and thoughtful tribute to Ron and also for the implicit reminder to us all to take some time to enjoy the lives we have been given.

I occasionally interacted with Ron in matters associated with the Internet and found him always a thoughtful and constructive contributor to the many debates surrounding this evolving system. His positive presence will be missed by colleagues and his kind and gentle soul not forgotten by his friends and family.

Vint Cerf


from Marc Pearl...

Ron was a one of the first legal policy experts that I met when I started working in the IT policy field almost a decade ago, and he immediately became a friend and mentor. He had a unique ability to chide and support a fellow colleague at the same time. His humor, his expertise, his creative approach to solving problems, and his warmth is what all of us who worked with him will always remember.

His efforts on global and federal IT and IP policy issues were outstanding. But what I remember most about our times together was when we would talk outside of Temple Sinai when our kids were in religious school years ago, or most recently, when he came to GW Hillel's High Holy Day services for the first time this year and we talked about finding 'just the right place' to work out one's spirituality.

I know how devastating this is for Barbara and Jeremy and Shelly, but also to his colleagues and friends at Piper Rudnick, particularly the "Robin" to his "Batman" - Jim Halpert. My prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to everyone. I wish you all strength in the knowledge that the good works and phenomenal humor of Ron will live in all of us who knew and worked and laughed with him for many years to come.
# posted by Marc Pearl : 5:31 AM

Friday, November 19, 2004


Ron Plesser, a tribute

I just received word that Ron died of a heart attack yesterday. He was one of the leading privacy lawyers and experts in the world, and a friend.

I didn't see him often. I would run into him at conferences, in airports and whenever I had time on a trip to DC. He was always generous with him time and expertise. He was one of the first people I asked to the advisory board for Wired Kids, the non-profit I run that protects kids online. And even hosted a television shoot with 15 of my Teenangels in his office.

It was unusual that I saw him twice in one month. But I saw him at a dinner in NJ for a privacy advocate and one of Ron's mentors in late October, and again last week at a going away party for a mutual friend in DC. Last week Ron wouldn't hug me, afraid of giving me his cold/flu. I had to settle for a squeeze of his hand.

The discussion started out as we usually did. Who was losing or gaining weight, health and work. Then for some reason, I asked him how he was doing personally. We stood in a crowded room and talked. He shared some of his family issues, and told me that he was looking forward to enjoying a house he and his wife had just purchased on the Cape. He said after many years of family obligations, they were finally seeing the light at the end ofthe tunnel and he couldn't wait to spend time there. We talked about the old Cape Codders and how I would have to buy him a subscription to Yankee. We talked about my old salt grandfather and life on the Cape after Thanksgiving. He told me about how he dreamed that he and his wife could sit back and relax, and enjoy this little house.

He complained a bit about real estate prices, wishing he had purchased a house years before. When we both laughed, wondering how he could ever had hoped he would be able to spend any time at a second home, knowing how committed he was to work and his clients.

This time he surprised me. When I said he'd have to work even harder to carry two mortgages, he sighed and said that if he had to, someday he would just sell the DC-area house and he and his wife would live in Cape Cod happily. He said he was tired and looked forward to enjoying these years and spending more time with his wife and building a more restful life. He saw himself living his days out near the surf, in a quaint and charming world.

I was touched that he had shared so much with me. And a bit surprised. I flew home thinking about how I needed to think about what's next one of these days. I envied him his spouse and his carefully planned future.

Then, a week after he told me he was looking forward to slowing down and smelling the roses (or at least the salty air), he had a fatal heart attack at an airport, running off to a meeting.

I cried when I received an e-mail telling me of his passing. I am crying still. I called his office to find out the details of any memorial service (3100 Military Roda, DC, at Temple Sinai, November 21st at 2pm EST) and broke down on the phone. The secretary I spoke with offered to e-mail me the details.

I admired Ron. I was always happy to see him. I cared for him. But I have cried more for him than for others I knew better, and for longer periods of time. I think I am crying for the promise lost. For the time he gave to business instead of himself. For the years he spent providing for his family's needs, instead of being selfish. For the dream he had and the life his widow must now face without him. I cried for the decisions I will have to make without his firm and reliable guidance, and his laughter and his keen wit. For the loss of all he knows and his unique way of problem solving. For the loss to the practical approach to privacy and public policy.

I will miss this kind, gentle giant.

I have created this blog in tribute to Ron as a place where all who loved him, admired him and miss him can come together to pay him tribute and celebrate his life.


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