Friday, September 11, 2009

Obama Privacy Grades Far From Stellar

Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based research and advocacy organization, has graded the performance of the Obama Administration on privacy issues during its early months.

EPIC lauded stronger provisions in the HITECH Act within the economic stimulus law that strengthen the HIPAA privacy and security rules, and awarded an A- for medical privacy efforts. "EPIC gives the Administration full credit for creating important privacy safeguards as part of the network for electronic health records. The privacy language in the HITECH Act makes the bill one of the best privacy laws in years. Still, implementation of privacy safeguards remains a key challenge," according to the organization.

Cybersecurity got a B grade. "The President's commitment to safeguard privacy and network communications in the difficult area of cybersecurity is commendable. But a battle looms over efforts by Congress to extend the government's control of the Internet. The President should have named a point person on cybersecurity to represent his views in that coming debate."

On consumer privacy, EPIC gives the administration an Incomplete grade and calls for strengthening the Federal Trade Commission. "At this time, the Obama Administration has introduced no new consumer privacy legislation and has left two of the five FTC Commissioner slots unfilled. Proposals are also moving forward that would make government information available to the private sector for advertising and marketing."

EPIC's grade for civil liberties is C+. "The Obama Administration inherited many troubling programs from the Bush Administration: the Patriot Act, Fusion Centers, No Fly Lists, E_Verify, and REAL ID. So far, there appears to be little change with the new Administration. There is a modified version of REAL ID called "PASS ID." The Patriot Act is still law. No Fly Lists and Fusion Centers are being expanded." The organization did note progress in some areas, "as well as open government and judicial appointments."

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