Data Brokers and the Federal Government: A New Front in the Battle for Privacy Opens | Conclusion


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IV. Conclusion

OMB deserves much praise for this novel privacy initiative, but it has more work to do. The evaluation of the first private sector database in the Do Not Pay Initiative needs to be accomplished in the open with full participation by all interested parties. The OMB memo provides for that. We need to see how well that process works.

There is more to be done elsewhere. The OMB privacy standards for the Do Not Pay initiative could usefully be expanded to include all Fair Information Practices, rather than just some. Individuals need a practical and available process to find and fix records that are wrong. That need is the same whether the records are maintained by the government or by the private sector.

The standards for the Do Not Pay Initiative should also be extended to cover all government use of commercial data brokers, including in law enforcement. The federal government should broadly use its marketplace power to improve privacy and improve databases. Regulation is not the only way to achieve a better result. Individuals need the same rights and protections whenever the government uses commercial databases.

If the privacy protections OMB established are effective, it will be an important step forward. At least in the Do Not Pay Initiative, people would have more ability to challenge the information coming from databases such as The Work Number and get redress from problems. If the protections were then to be taken up widely across the federal government and by state governments, the result could be better quality commercial databases for use by governments and by others. There would be fewer errors, less fraud, less government waste, more redress for individuals, and a higher overall standard of modern fair information practices would be set.

Data brokers, data users, and data subjects benefit when databases become more accurate, timely, relevant, and complete. Privacy isn’t just about individuals. Everyone gains when privacy protections result in better records.

The Do Not Pay Initiative demonstrates that there is no need to wait for legislation to find creative ways to extend privacy standards to the commercial sector. The World Privacy Forum hopes that it is a first step in using executive authority to implement additional privacy protective actions and norms.
Roadmap: Data Brokers and the Federal Government: A New Front in the Battle for Privacy Opens – Conclusion


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