The General Accounting Office has reported the federal
government is ignoring individual privacy rights of citizens.
Not only is it ignoring guidelines, the actions being taken may
server to put your privacy at more risk of being violated.
Government Run Amuck
Five federal agencies are charged with using electronic data
mining tools to track terrorist, catch criminals and prevent
general fraudulent behavior. In using these tools, the agencies
are supposed to fall a set of guidelines designed to protect
your privacy. None of the agencies are doing so. In fact, they
are doing just the opposite.
According to the GAO, the five federal agencies repeatedly
failed to follow guidelines. These failures either “increased
the risk that personal information could be improperly exposed
or altered” or “limited the ability of the public — including
those individuals whose information was used — to participate
in the management of that personal information.”
In investigating the situation, the GAO looked at five federal
agencies. The agencies are the Agriculture Department, Federal
Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, Small
Business Administration and State Department. The GAO found none
of the agencies had complied with privacy guidelines and only
three had even considered them.
Of this list, three groups are particularly worrisome. The IRS,
obviously, controls incredibly delicate information for every
person in the United States. The Agency has already reported
problems with staff and agents giving out information over the
phone to potential identity thieves. The FBI definitely needs to
track terrorist and criminals, but how comfortable are you with
the government sifting your person information without
restriction? The Small Business Administration is particularly
troubling as it collects detailed financial and background
information to determine whether it should provide small
business loans. Getting into that database would be like finding
the Holy Grail for an identity thief.
Privacy rights are not the most glamorous of subjects and you
may dismiss articles about them out of hand. You will feel
differently, however, if your identity is stolen.