Retro is a “no go” when Privacy Rights are Involved

What do disco music, eight-track audio systems and beta videocassette tapes all have in common? They’re all examples of technologies and fads that have come and gone since the Privacy Act of 1974 was last updated.

Looking at the list above it’s painfully obvious that federal privacy standards, written during a time when “storage facility” literally referred to file cabinets, are overdue for an update in the digital era.  While the basic framework of the Privacy Act has held up well over the past 35 years, changes need to be made to insure that the advent of new technologies do not threaten to undermine the protections that have been put in place.

Today, the Center for Democracy & Technology unveiled an in-depth proposal to update the federal Privacy Act and related federal privacy policy to address the challenges of the digital age. The announcement came as part of a panel discussion featuring government and privacy leaders that coincided with the release of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s federal Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board’s report on its findings on government privacy rules. ISPAB has also called for significant changes to the existing federal privacy framework.

With today’s information technology and the promise of another 35 years of innovation before we get around to updating the Privacy Act again, it’s important to create leadership within the federal government and try to ensure that the definitions of the Privacy Act are capable of protecting privacy in the face of technologies like data mining. In addition, it is important to make sure that the government takes advantage of innovative technologies to ensure that privacy notices are effective and informative to the public.

We think that these are important steps towards improving the protections of the Privacy Act, but we also want to hear how the public would like the Privacy Act updated and have created an interactive wiki to let the public help us draft amendments. Never before have “Washington insiders” opened the drafting of legislation to the public, for anyone to read, change, and comment on any part of the bill. CDT will edit and moderate this open process and, if appropriate, incorporate suggestions in the final bill it submits to Congress. Come help us re-write the Privacy Act for the next 35 years.

The “wiki” is available here: http://eprivacyact.org

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