Friday, May 20, 2005

41 Groups Oppose Homeland Security's Weak Privacy Rules

A coalition of 41 groups, including Electronic Privacy Information Center, American Civil Liberties Union, Council On American-Islamic Relations, and People For The American Way, submitted comments opposing the Department of Homeland Security's plan to exempt a vast database from legal requirements that protect privacy and promote government accountability. The coalition stated that the agency's plan leaves individuals without the ability to correct inaccurate information and without protection against possible abuse of the database.

According to DHS, the Homeland Security Operations Center Database ("HSOCD"), will serve as "a single, centralized repository for gathered information." The agency seeks broad exemptions from key fair information principles such as the Privacy Act of 1974 requirements that an individual be permitted access to personal information, that an individual be permitted to correct and amend personal information, and that an agency assure the reliability of personal information for its intended use. These exemptions would allow DHS to track and profile individuals, including American citizens who seek to aid homeland security investigations, with little accountability.

For this database, DHS proposes to deny individuals the civil remedies they have against an agency for failure to comply with its obligations under the Privacy Act. Providing individuals with the right to judicial review is crucial because the new database will have information not only about suspected criminals, but also about people who offer information about terrorism, as well as current and former DHS employees and contractors. Though the Privacy Act requires an agency to provide reasons why the database should be exempted, DHS has not yet provided an explanation.

Full details.

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