Home > Past Releases and Reports > Privacilla.org Reveals Government Information-Sharing Practices
For Immediate Release
March 12, 2001
Contact: Jim Harper
Privacilla.org Reveals Government Information-Sharing Practices
Government Exchange and Merger of Citizens' Personal Data Called
"Systematic and Routine"
report today showing that federal government
agencies regularly trade personal information about American citizens.
The report reveals that, in the last 18 months, new government information-sharing
programs have been announced more than once every two weeks. Citizens' personal
information is shared among the Internal Revenue Service, the Health Care Financing
Administration, the Department of Labor, and the Social Security Administration, to
name a few. The Privacilla report calls this "the tip of an information-trading
"At no point do people have the option of withholding information from government,"
said Jim Harper, operator of Privacilla.org. "It's hard to protect privacy in the
commercial world, but it's impossible to protect privacy in the governmental world."
The report comes in advance of a Federal Trade Commission workshop on exchange and
merger of personal information in the private sector.
"Governments should be the first to give up data merger practices that threaten
privacy," the Privacilla report finds. It also calls on Congress to "take a sweeping
look at the federal government's information practices."
"The FTC shouldn't tut-tut the private sector until the government has its own
house in order," said Harper.
The Privacilla report acknowledges the beneficial purposes for which citizens'
personal information is shared. These include debt collection and assessment of
credit risk, avoiding waste and overpayment in federal programs, and law enforcement.
"Many uses government makes of personal information are parallel to uses the
private sector makes," noted Harper, "but only government gets to write and rewrite
the rules about how information can be used."
"Governments are fundamentally not in the business of protecting privacy," summarizes
the report, which was compiled by reviewing announcements in the Federal Register
required by the Privacy Act and the Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act.
"With the current focus on privacy of health care information, it is surprising to
see the Health Care Finance Administration sharing information with other agencies,"
said Harper. "Federal health privacy rules should be rewritten to give patients the
power and responsibility to protect privacy as they see fit."
Privacilla.org (http://www.privacilla.org) is a Web site that captures privacy
as a public policy issue from a free-market, pro-technology perspective. It has
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