Another privacy policy to read…from the White House

August 5th, 2009 by Mimi Yin
Yet another policy to read? How about one from the government? As we’ve already detailed in our Guide to reading Privacy Policies, we’re not sure that privacy policies are very useful (to individuals).
This is not to say that we don’t think they should exist and the government should certainly have one.
But think about this. Why should we be less willing to give our information to our government than to our bank, insurance company or Google? Our government’s purported mission is to represent the interests of “we, the people.” Why should the CDC have to rely on a private entity to gain access to data that would help stem a public health crisis?
Unmitigated government surveillance is not what we’re advocating.
But we do believe that the government should have as much data as is needed for us to understand and address the problems we face today. Just not data that can traced back to any particular individual. The tricky part is figuring how to deliver more data with more privacy.
So at the end of the day, while we understand EFF and CDT’s recommendations for the short-term. We hope that in the long-term, we won’t need to limit what data can be collected, what it’s used for and how long it can be retained. All of these undercut our ability to learn from the data.
What needs limits is the ability for data collectors to  track and identify individuals.

Yet another policy to read? How about one from the White House? As we’ve already detailed in our Guide to Reading Online Privacy Policies, we’re not sure that privacy policies are very useful (at least for individuals).

This is not to say that we don’t think they should exist at all and we appreciate that the administration is putting real thought into theirs.

But think about this:

Why should we be less willing to give our information to our government than to our bank, insurance company or Google?

Our government’s purported mission is to represent the interests of “we, the people.” Why should the CDC have to rely on a private entity to gain access to data that might help stem a public health crisis?

Unmitigated government surveillance is not what we’re advocating.

But we do believe that the government should have as much data as is needed for us to understand and address the problems we face today…just not data that can be traced back to any particular individual. The tricky part is figuring out how to deliver more data with more privacy.

So at the end of the day, while we understand the reasoning behind EFF and CDT’s recommendations for the short-term, we hope that in the long-term, we won’t need to limit what data can be collected, what it’s used for and how long it can be retained. All of these undercut our ability to learn from the data.

What needs limitations is the ability for data collectors (public and private) to  track and identify individuals.

Our goal is to figure out a way of doing that without having to “throw out” valuable data in order to guarantee privacy.

One Response to “Another privacy policy to read…from the White House”

  1. Manok says:

    It should in general NOT be a problem that the govt can access private information. However, data is leaked often onto the street, and of all companies and organizations, governments have the MOST incompetent IT departments. And if it’s not the tech guys, the manager dudes are very sloppy.

    I would sign off immediately on any law that allows the govt to access ANY information of me, as long as it comes with a clause that they will pay me millions of $$$ if they mess up. Perhaps then they will finally become a bit more competent at IT and privacy.


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