Customs and Border Protection not taking privacy seriously, audit says


The Customs and Border Protection agency handles sensitive private information for about 350 million travelers a year but has only a part-time privacy officer, according to a new audit from the Homeland Security Department Office of Inspector General.

The department has several gaps in how it is protecting personally-identifiable information of travelers as well as the Social Security numbers of its own employees, the May 11 report said.

In 2009, the DHS Secretary directed 10 component agencies, including CBP, to designate senior-level full-time privacy officers. However, CBP designated a branch chief for a dual role as privacy officer. The branch chief continues to serve in the dual roles, the audit said.

The dual nature of the assignment for the privacy officer is “limiting his ability” to address all the privacy duties associated with the position, the inspector general report said.

"CBP has made limited progress toward instilling a culture of privacy," the audit stated. "This is in part because it has not established a strong organizational approach to address privacy issues across the component."

In addition, the privacy office has not made a complete inventory of personally-identifiable information, has not performed an analysis of privacy requirements for 70 percent of its systems and has not developed accurate privacy notices informing the public that the information has been collected, the report said. The privacy office also has not done enough to protect employee Social Security numbers.

The inspector general made recommendations to the Acting Commissioner of CBP to establish a privacy office with adequate resources and staffing, issue a directive to hold assistant commissioners and directors accountable for privacy responsibilities and implement stronger measures to protect worker Social Security numbers.

Agency officials agreed with the recommendations.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

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