ACLU Report: Building American Institutions to Protect Privacy in the Face of New Technology and Government Powers
The ACLU has released a new report, “Enforcing Privacy: Building American Institutions to Protect Privacy in the Face of New Technology and Government Powers,” written by Jay Stanley (a friend and colleague). He notes that nearly every other advanced-industrial nation, has an independent data protection official or privacy commissioner, but the United States does not.
The United States urgently needs stronger privacy oversight institutions to serve as a countervailing force as the computer and telecommunications revolutions change the privacy landscape for Americans and create new opportunities for large institutions to grab more power at the expense of ordinary people. Only by creating such institutions can we ensure that American values are preserved and the rights and interests of ordinary people are protected.
The fact is, the rules of the game are changing. Advances in technology, with all the conveniences and benefits they bring, also open up new ways of tracking, sorting, labeling and controlling people. We are increasingly living in a world where our every word, movement and transaction is captured and subject to scrutiny and judgment. Americans’ lives are increasingly controlled by their data – or to be more precise, data about them that is controlled by others.
But, just because something can be done does not mean it should be; many of the new techniques that the government and private companies are rushing to deploy are not consistent with our values and our freedom. Privacy rights are one of the crucial underpinnings of our democratic society, yet in the United States, as big institutions rush to exploit the latest computer technology, privacy interests are not sufficiently represented at the table if they are present at all.
The ACLU has several recommendations for Congress:
1. Activate the independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) and expand its scope and powers to turn it into a full-fledged privacy body with oversight of all government agencies.
2. Supplement the strengthened PCLOB with multiple overlapping layers of privacy protection, by creating a statutorily mandated Privacy Advisor within the White House’s OMB, and bolstering and expanding federal agency privacy offices.
3. Create an independent federal privacy commission to serve as a full- fledged private-sector privacy regulator.