WASHINGTON - David F. Linowes, 90, an economist, author, and educator who chaired an influential federal panel on privacy-protection issues as well as three other presidential commissions, died Monday at his home in Chevy Chase, Md., after a stroke.
Mr. Linowes was a professor emeritus of public policy and political economy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
He had long balanced careers in the public and private sectors, starting in the 1960s, when he was a mergers and acquisitions specialist in New York and headed UN trade missions to Europe and Asia.
From 1975 to 1977, he chaired the federally appointed Privacy Protection Study Commission. A national privacy act, passed as a Watergate-era reform, created the commission to recommend ways of protecting personal data held by government agencies and the private sector.
Colin Bennett, chairman of the political science department at the University of Victoria in Canada and a specialist on privacy protection, said: "The report itself is a landmark in privacy-protection studies. At the time it was produced, it was one of the best analyses of the issue anywhere in the world."
In the United States, few of the report's suggestions became law, but it was used partly as a model for commissions in Europe, Canada, and elsewhere to address privacy concerns, Bennett said.
The commission opposed a comprehensive privacy law for the private sector but urged laws to cover such industries as banking and insurance.
Few of those suggested laws affecting the private sector were enacted in the United States after the report came out, but a "piecemeal, reactive" approach has been taken over the decades to build private-sector protection, from health records to video rentals, Bennett said.
Mr. Linowes remained actively concerned with privacy issues while at the University of Illinois. There he conducted a large-scale study of privacy protection at the nation's largest corporations and called for a federal law to protect employees and set fair-information practices for businesses.
"Today, employers are anxious to get as much information on employees as possible," he told The Boston Globe in 2000. "Once it gets into a computer, once it gets a technical aspect, then anybody can get that information."
David Linowitz was born March 16, 1917, in Trenton, N.J., to Russian-born Jews.
As a young adult, he changed his name to David Francis Linowes and urged much of his family to adopt the new surname to avoid anti-Semitism.
Mr. Linowes also wrote widely for professional journals, in which he became a leading advocate of principles to make government more efficient and corporations more socially accountable.
He leaves his wife of 61 years, Dorothy Wolf Linowes of Chevy Chase; three children, Joanne Linowes Alinsky of Medfield, Richard Linowes of Germantown, Md., and Jonathan Linowes of Lyman, N.H.; two brothers, Harry M. Linowes of Bethesda, Md., and R. Robert Linowes of Chevy Chase; and 13 grandchildren.