Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

  The White House has new plans for your privacy

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in its never-ending battle against terrorism, and at first blush they don't look too good. Today it issued another one of its big national security Strategy documents, this one called "National Strategy for Information Sharing". It's all about sharing information regarding terrorism among federal, state, local agencies and with foreign governments. Coming as it does from the Bush administration, a pretty scary document at least in theory.

So I turned immediately to the description of its provisions for Protecting Privacy and Other Legal Rights in the Sharing of Information. Absolutely leaden. A lot of emphasis on keeping information secure once it’s in the governments hands; very little apparent interest in keeping citizens' private information private.

There are all sorts of issues you’d hope a government would take some concern for:

Insuring that authorities don’t acquire private information that has no use in the never-ending battle against terrorism; that it spreads private information only as widely as absolutely necessary; that it provides easy mechanisms to correct false information, and remove unnecessary and objectionable information; that it provides for multiple forms of oversight through the legislative and judicial branches, and stiff penalties for abuses; that it has a powerful Inspector General’s office; that its operations should be as transparent as possible.

Almost none of that is reflected in the document I found at the White House website, the roadmap for future use (and abuse) of private information in the name of the never-ending battle against terrorism. Instead, the WH presents the issue as one of balancing privacy rights against security concerns.

With proper planning we can have both enhanced privacy protections and increased information sharing…


I don’t see how that can be achieved, not if “privacy protections” has its normal meaning. The more private information is shared, the less privacy individuals have. It’s a pretty easy concept. I have to conclude that for Bush, “protecting” privacy means “controlling” it in the government’s hands.

Here is the sum total of what I would consider the essential checks against government abuse of individual privacy that this new Strategy provides for:

- Establish a redress process consistent with legal authorities and mission requirements


In other words you, the citizen, will be permitted to complain about violations of your privacy by the federal government in so far as your complaint fits the requirements of the "mission". That augurs well, doesn't it? You’ll have the devil’s own time trying to identify the “mission” of any agency, as I can’t imagine they’ll want to be helpful to any who might complain.

Then's there's a second, equally depressing statement:

- Make the public aware of the agency's policies and procedures as appropriate


"As appropriate", indeed.

The page I’ve been quoting from is merely a summary of the new Strategy’s “privacy principles”. It refers the reader to the ISE website, in case the reader had the crazy idea of reading the actual text of the new Privacy Guidelines. There are two links at the ISE page, one for an overview of the privacy policy guidelines, the other for the full text.

Neither link works. As appropriate.

crossposted from unbossed.com

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