US Department of Justice

WPF Report: The US Department of Commerce and International Privacy Activities: Indifference and Neglect

This report evaluates the US Department of Commerce’s international privacy programs, their efficacy, and their value to business and to consumers. The role of the Commerce Department has become more important in light of the Obama Administration’s establishment of a Subcommittee on Privacy and Internet Policy in October 2010. The Subcommittee is chaired jointly by the Department of Commerce and the Department of Justice, and it is intended to promote “individual privacy,” among other things. [1]

This report reviews, analyzes, and summarizes major international privacy activities of the Department of Commerce, with a focus on the Safe Harbor Framework established in 2000 with the European Union in response to the requirements of the EU Data Protection Directive. The report also considers briefly the Department’s work on the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Privacy Framework.

Public Comments: August 2008 – Border Crossing Information, System of Records Notice, DHS-2007-0040

The World Privacy Forum filed comments regarding DHS’s proposed Border Crossing Information system of records, finding that many of the Routine Uses proposed for the system were impermissible and illegal under the Privacy Act of 1974. The comments focus on the Routine Uses, rather than the system itself.

Department of Justice Proposes Making Changes to Routine Uses of its Systems and Databases; World Privacy Forum Files Comments on Problematic Privacy Act Issues with the Proposed Changes

Privacy Act of 1974 — The Department of Justice published a notice proposing to update the Routine Uses of its systems and databases under the Privacy Act of 1974. The proposal was not precise enough, and was written in such a way as to allow sensitive Privacy Act systems such as the Criminal Division Witness Security File (CRM-002), the Witness Immunity Records (CRM-022), and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS, FBI-018) to be disclosed to almost anyone in certain circumstances, including to individuals working outside of law enforcement. The World Privacy Forum is requesting that the DOJ significantly tighten its language in the proposal, and to specify what individuals or entities may have access to these sensitive records, under what specific conditions. The World Privacy Forum is also requesting the DOJ republish all of its up-to-date system of records notices in their entirety immediately and at least every two years thereafter.

Public Comments: November 2006 – Privacy Act of 1974 Department of Justice Proposes Making Changes to Routine Uses of its Systems and Databases; World Privacy Forum Files Comments on Problematic Privacy Act Issues with the Proposed Changes

The Department of Justice published a notice proposing to update the Routine Uses of its systems and databases under the Privacy Act of 1974. The proposal was not precise enough, and was written in such a way as to allow sensitive Privacy Act systems such as the Criminal Division Witness Security File (CRM-002), the Witness Immunity Records (CRM-022), and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS, FBI-018) to be disclosed to almost anyone in certain circumstances, including to individuals working outside of law enforcement. The World Privacy Forum is requesting that the DOJ significantly tighten its language in the proposal, and to specify what individuals or entities may have access to these sensitive records, under what specific conditions. The World Privacy Forum is also requesting the DOJ republish all of its up-to-date system of records notices in their entirety immediately and at least every two years thereafter. Read the comments (PDF).

World Privacy Forum Comments on Proposed Policy for Genetic Database

Genetic privacy — Genome-wide association studies present complex and challenging privacy issues. The National Institutes of Health, in a published request for information, asked for public comment on its proposed policy regarding its support and management of a central genomic repository for genome-wide association studies. In comments filed with the National Institutes of Health, the World Privacy Forum raised concerns about the proposed NIH policy in the specific areas of genetic identifiability, secondary uses of the genetic data, oversight, legal protections, and informed consent.