Enforcing Privacy in America

ACLU Report Calls For Stronger U.S. Privacy Oversight

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today released a new report recommending steps Congress should take to create the vigorous privacy oversight institutions that are desperately needed in the United States to counterbalance the rush of new technologies and expanding government powers, and called for the Obama administration to move quickly to fill the seats on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). 

“The United States needs stronger privacy institutions to protect us at a time when new technology and new government powers are threatening our privacy in truly unprecedented ways,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The history of abuse during the civil rights era, the Cold War and, of course, during the Bush administration, underlines the need for a vigorous system of checks and balances as envisioned by our nation’s founders. The Obama administration and the 111th Congress have the opportunity to enter a new era of accountability and ensure that these abuses don’t happen on their watch.”

The ACLU report, Enforcing Privacy, is a blueprint for the creation of an American equivalent to something nearly every industrialized nation other than the United States has: a privacy commissioner charged with protecting citizens’ privacy from the government and private sector. Based on interviews with a wide range of experts on government and privacy, including privacy officers in other countries, it makes two primary recommendations to Congress. First, the report recommends building on the existing – but never filled – PCLOB by expanding its scope and powers to turn it into a full-fledged public-sector privacy oversight body. Second, the ACLU calls for an augmentation of the powers of the Federal Trade Commission to make it a full-fledged private-sector privacy regulator.

“The Obama administration has a lot on its plate, but protecting Americans’ privacy should not be put on the back burner,” said Jay Stanley of the ACLU Technology and Liberty Program. “It has been over nine months now and it is time to fill the PCLOB. With every passing day, new technologies and expanded government powers increasingly leave Americans’ privacy at risk; checks and balances are an urgent priority.”   

The previous version of the PCLOB was created as an arm of the White House by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. Its lack of independence immediately became apparent and, in 2007, Congress passed legislation creating a new PCLOB as an independent agency like the FTC or the Federal Communications Commission. The new PCLOB has some considerable oversight powers. However, due to a political standoff between President Bush and Democratic congressional leaders, the members of the new, independent board were never appointed under President Bush – and, under President Obama, they still have not been.

“Though some agencies have inspectors general, some have privacy officers, and OMB has a privacy oversight role, what is missing is a truly independent institution,” said Stanley. “The U.S. intelligence establishment is absolutely enormous, with a budget of at least $57 billion. It is time that we begin constructing oversight mechanisms commensurate with the size of those institutions. A democratic people conscientious about their freedom can demand no less.”

The ACLU’s report, Enforcing Privacy¸ is available online at: www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/enforcing-privacy-building-american-institutions-protect-privacy-face-new-tec


CONTACT: (202) 675-2312 or [email protected]

Articles by: Global Research

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article. The Centre of Research on Globalization grants permission to cross-post Global Research articles on community internet sites as long the source and copyright are acknowledged together with a hyperlink to the original Global Research article. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: [email protected]

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of "fair use" in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than "fair use" you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: [email protected]