Subcommittee will examine information privacy, security

With privacy concerns heightened after incidents of stolen laptop computers and information breaches in 2006, the newly appointed chairman of the House information policy subcommittee plans to delve into the problems surrounding technology and privacy.

Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Information Policy, Census and National Archives Subcommittee, whose jurisdiction covers public information and records laws such as the Freedom of Information Act, the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act; the Census Bureau; and the National Archives and Records Administration.

One of 2006's most prominent failures in securing sensitive information was the theft of a Department of Veterans Affairs’ laptop and an external hard drive containing the personal information of 26.5 million veterans from the home of a VA employee in May.

The incident spurred new regulations to protect personally identifiable information and other private data in the government’s hands.
Clay wants to ensure the regulations work in blocking breaches.

As chairman, Clay plans to look at government safeguards of personal information and how the government uses the information it already has.

“We will spend some time examining how government and private-sector activities are having an impact on our privacy,” he said.
The hearings will look at how technology helps and hurts people’s privacy. He is also interested in civil liberties as they relate to data-mining or excessive profiling by the government.

He will study the private sector for ways to better protect personally identifiable information.

Clay also wants the subcommittee look into more accessibility and transparency of government information, including increased oversight of departments’ delays and denials of FOIA requests.

No hearings are set yet.

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