Webcast Will Discuss Privacy Implications of Open Government

Lora Bentley

Since before the Obama Administration took charge in Washington, we've heard again and again that transparency and an open government were some of the president's highest priorities. Lately, federal agencies have also been focused on protecting consumer privacy online. So how do those two interests play together?


The government is interested in how companies use information they gather about consumers online, but will it play by its own rules? And will the government tell us if it's not playing by its own rules? I've mentioned before that the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the University of California-Berkeley's Samuelson Clinic have filed an FOIA request with several agencies to release details of how they use information gathered from social networking sites.


And according to the EFF's Web site, the group has also written and is circulating an open letter to the president, asking him to follow through. From the letter:

[E]lements of your administration are working overtime to prevent the release of many records which the public has a right to view. ...[S]ince 2006, EFF has been asking the FBI to release details of a program called the Investigative Data Warehouse. This network of databases contains over 560 million documents about American citizens -- but there has been no public access to the Bureau's assessments of the warehouse's impact on Americans' privacy ... We urge you to follow through on your promises of transparency.


Clearly, no one has determined yet exactly how privacy and open government should coexist, but Wednesday, Dec. 16, Federal Computer Week is offering a free Webcast in which Deloitte Consulting privacy specialist James McCartney will discuss some of those issues. According to the FCW information and registration page, topics up for grabs include the need for a consistent, government-wide privacy policy, the ease-of-use standard vs. the privacy/security standard, and management of digital identities.

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