DHS gets new privacy chief

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the appointment today of Mary Ellen Callahan to be the Homeland Security Department's chief privacy officer.

Callahan will oversee an office responsible for minimizing the impact on privacy and personal information of DHS’ many information technology, data-driven programs, the department said. The office is also the steward for federal privacy laws, court decisions, executive orders and departmental policies meant to protect personal information.

Callahan replaces Hugo Teufel, who left at the end of the Bush administration.

Last December, DHS’ Privacy Office released a policy guidance document that explained the principles it uses to assess the privacy effects of DHS programs. In that month, the office also released a framework for DHS program managers to assess the privacy effects of proposed research projects, including those that engage in data mining and use personally identifiable information.

In addition to the notices and privacy impact assessments that agencies must complete under federal law, DHS is also required to produce an annual report on the department’s data-mining activities.

In a statement, Napolitano said, “Homeland security and privacy are not mutually exclusive, and having a seasoned professional like Mary Ellen on the team further ensures that privacy is built into everything we do.”

Callahan is an attorney who has specialized in privacy, security, data protection, consumer protection and e-commerce law for more than 10 years.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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