Governments falling short on privacy

Governments should be more proactive in discussing, formulating and establishing

rules on privacy and security, and the public needs to be more educated

about the issue, said a panel of experts during a wide-ranging discussion

Tuesday.

Kansas's chief information technology officer Don Heiman said his state

detects four serious hacker attacks a week, and such incidents often go

undetected. Heiman was one of several privacy and security experts speaking

at the National Association of State Information Resource Executives annual

conference in Baltimore.

He said governments should be vigilant in updating and upgrading security

policies. He proposed a national clearinghouse for states to share resources

and specialists to protect assets.

Others said the public isn't well-informed about privacy and security.

"We have to figure out how to talk to the public about this issue," said

Tom Unruh, senior policy adviser to the National Governors' Association,

adding that the governors need to take the lead.

Iowa's chief information officer, Richard Varn, said the public has an exaggerated

view of what the government can do in terms of invading an individual's

privacy. He illustrated the point by showing a clip from the movie "Men

in Black" in which a character, from his computer terminal, spies on a woman

gardening thousands of miles away. He then showed a video clip of a man

violently banging on his computer to point out a government's real capabilities.

"We are usually happy if our stuff works at all," Varn said.

J.D. Williams, Idaho's state controller, said privacy is a critical issue

in this country. "You start with the proposition that Americans want to

control their own destiny. It's fundamental," he said.

Williams, who also is chairman of the {http://www.ec3.org} National Electronic

Commerce Coordinating Council, an alliance of national state government

associations promoting e-government, unveiled an NECCC guidebook reinforcing

the need for privacy policies and the mechanisms needed for local and state

governments to create them.

"It's probably going to take several years to resolve this issue and Congress

is going to have to weigh in," he said after the discussion.

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