• United States



by Paul L. Kerstein

Protecting Your Data: When the Feds Break the Rules

Sep 27, 20052 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

This August, the Government Accountability Office reported that five federal agencies violated the Privacy Act while gathering citizen information. The Department of Agriculture, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the Small Business Administration and the State Department all increased the risk of exposing data or limited the ability of Americans to access their information.

If we can’t rely on top government agencies to police their own actions, what can citizens do to guarantee their rights to privacy are being protected?

Senator Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii, the ranking Democrat on the Senate government management subcommittee, decried the abuses and called for legislation that would require the feds follow the rules of the Privacy Act.

Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, says federal agencies are far too indiscriminate when it comes to collecting data. Dempsey would like to see them take only what they need. With less to use, he says, there will be less to lose. Dempsey would also like the government to give citizens more access to see and correct information about themselves.

John Bliss, a privacy strategist at IBM, thinks new technology is the answer. He would have the feds encrypt data to “anonymize” it, so that specific data could no longer be used to identify a specific person.

What can be done to protect our personal information? Do we need legislation or will technology solve the problem? What do you think?