DHS seeks to ease privacy fears

Homeland Security Department officials say they hope their new privacy protection principles for research projects will address concerns some privacy advocates have raised about the programs.

Homeland Security Department officials say they hope their new privacy protection principles for research projects will address concerns some privacy advocates have raised about the programs. 

DHS released the “Principles for Implementing Privacy Protections in S&T Research Projects” last week as part of its 2008 report to Congress on the department’s data-mining technology and policy. The principles will provide a framework by which DHS program managers can assess the privacy effects of proposed research projects, including those that engage in data mining and use personally identifiable information, DHS said.

The principles — formulated by DHS’ Privacy Office and its Science and Technology Directorate — would require the directorate to provide a clear statement of a project’s purpose and only use personally identifiable information for that purpose.

Researchers would also have to use as little of that data as possible. In addition, the principles call for the department to train employees on the privacy policy and establish a redress program for people who believe their information was used inappropriately.

Officials developed the principles in response to concerns expressed during a public workshop DHS held in July to discuss privacy protections in the government’s use of data mining.   

“It really was a broad scope of stakeholders’ comments and concerns and input that caused us to come up with the list of principles,” said Brad Buswell, DHS’ deputy undersecretary for science and technology.

Barry Steinhardt, director of the Technology and Liberty Program at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the principles represented a step forward, but the directorate’s projects account for only a small part of the programs that are troubling.

Steinhardt said he wanted DHS to be more consistent in filing required privacy notices but acknowledged that the principles could be a sign that the department’s approach is going to change.

“The thing that still worries me is that DHS has been up until now a highly secretive body,” Steinhardt said.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Shutterstock image (by wk1003mike): cloud system fracture.

    Does the IRS have a cloud strategy?

    Congress and watchdog agencies have dinged the IRS for lacking an enterprise cloud strategy seven years after it became the official policy of the U.S. government.

  • Shutterstock image: illuminated connections between devices.

    Who won what in EIS

    The General Services Administration posted detailed data on how the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract might be divvied up.

  • Wikimedia Image: U.S. Cyber Command logo.

    Trump elevates CyberCom to combatant command status

    The White House announced a long-planned move to elevate Cyber Command to the status of a full combatant command.

  • Photo credit: John Roman Images / Shutterstock.com

    Verizon plans FirstNet rival

    Verizon says it will carve a dedicated network out of its extensive national 4G LTE network for first responders, in competition with FirstNet.

  • AI concept art

    Can AI tools replace feds?

    The Heritage Foundation is recommending that hundreds of thousands of federal jobs be replaced by automation as part of a larger government reorganization strategy.

  • DOD Common Access Cards

    DOD pushes toward CAC replacement

    Defense officials hope the Common Access Card's days are numbered as they continue to test new identity management solutions.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group