DHS will use new privacy protection principles in research
The Homeland Security Department today announced several new privacy
protection principles that DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate will
use when conducting new research. The standards were announced as part
of DHS’ 2008 report on its data-mining activities.
required to produce the annual data-mining report by an anti-terrorism
law passed in 2007 and the department identified three activities which
it says qualify as data-mining activities under Congress’ definition.
Some of the principles the department will now use include:
- Properly assessing the privacy effect of new programs.
- Clearly stating and documenting a project's purpose through an internal/external project review process.
- Trying to only use personally identifiable information that is
reasonably considered accurate and appropriate for its documented
purpose and attempting to use as little of that data as possible.
- Developing and administering a redress program.
- Providing training.
privacy office said a public workshop prompted it to begin working with
DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate on the series of principles for
protecting privacy in research activities whether they are classified
as data mining or not.
“A primary goal of the principles is to
preclude the possibility that research projects could have a negative
impact on privacy,” the report said. “This requires not only a tightly
focused purpose for research, but also reasonable limits on the types
of data used, and on how the data is used, consistent with a project’s
The report said data mining as defined by Congress is
limited to certain pattern-based electronic searches to identify
predictive patterns or anomalies that indicate terrorist or criminal
activity. In addition, DHS’ report added research in electronic
databases that produce only a summary of historical trends are not
considered data mining under the law.
The report also identified three DHS activities considered data mining under lawmakers’ definition:
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Automated Targeting System that is
meant to target, identify and preventing potential terrorists and
terrorist weapons from entering the United States.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s system that supports ICE's
investigations of trade-based money laundering, contraband smuggling,
trade fraud, and other import/export crimes.
Transportation Security Administration’s Freight Assessment System, a
risk assessment tool meant to identify cargo that may pose a heightened
risk to passenger aircraft.
The privacy office said none of
those programs make unevaluated automated decisions about individuals
solely on the basis of data-mining results and DHS employees conduct
investigations to verify -- or disprove -- the results of data mining.
Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.