ACLU Report Calls For Stronger U.S. Privacy Oversight Institutions

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

ACLU Report Calls For Stronger U.S. Privacy Oversight Institutions

Group Calls on Obama To Fill Liberties Oversight Board

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.”
 

 

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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