ACLU Applauds Senate Committee Investigation Into Personal Privacy Protections

June 17, 2008 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) applauds Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs for holding a hearing to explore whether the federal government is doing enough to protect personal information.

“The simple answer is no, the federal government is not doing enough to protect our personal information,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The government has no business collecting our personal information if it cannot ensure the American public it will be protected from identify thieves and other prying eyes.”

Congress has introduced and passed numerous legislative initiatives requiring the creation of a government database containing Americans’ personal information, including the Real ID Act of 2005, which establishes a national drivers’ license. Real ID requires the creation of a massive single interlinked government database. The combination of this interlinked database coupled with the requirement that each DMV store copies of every birth certificate and other documents presented to it will create a one-stop shop for identity thieves.

“The Privacy Act was originally written in 1974, before Information Sharing Environment or data mining,” said Timothy Sparapani, senior legislative counsel for the ACLU. “Technology has advanced light years since then, and it’s long since time for Congress to update the Privacy Act to keep pace with the changing times.”

In 2004, in Doe v. Chao, the United States Supreme Court made it more difficult for plaintiffs to sue the federal government for violations of the Privacy Act of 1974. Its ruling required plaintiffs to demonstrate the level of harm or injury experienced by violation of the act due to the federal government’s mishandling of personal data.

Added Sparapani, “Advances in technology and increased instances of identity theft call for updating the Privacy Act. Americans should know that there are clear federal guidelines in place for the protection of their personal information, and government accountability if they aren’t followed.”

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