Financial privacy – Privacy Act — The World Privacy Forum filed comments today urging the U.S. Treasury Department to obtain consumers’ consent before checking their credit reports. Consumers who participate in the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) — an Obama administration program created to help consumers renegotiate their mortgages so they can keep their homes — must allow the Federal Government to check their credit reports without first obtaining consent. This procedure sets a negative precedent, and is at odds with consumer expectations of privacy. The Treasury gave itself this power in an obscure set of “Routine Uses” in a Privacy Act notice published along with the proposed system of records for the program. The World Privacy Forum has objected to this, and has filed detailed comments with the Treasury about the lack of consumer consent. The public comment period on this program is open until September 4, 2009.
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.
National Disaster Medical System | Privacy Act of 1974 — The World Privacy Forum has filed public comments with the Department of Health and Human Services requesting that its new National Disaster Medical System protect all patient information to at least the baseline protections that HIPAA affords, including the HIPAA security and privacy protections. Currently, the new system does not do this, even though the system is housed at HHS, the agency which promulgated the HIPAA standards. The National Disaster Medical System currently contains overbroad routine uses which could potentially result in significant privacy and even public health issues. For example, public health information will not be able to be disclosed under the National Disaster Medical System as the system is currently organized. Additionally, some of the current routine uses in the system would authorize disclosures that would be illegal under HIPAA. For example, Congressional disclosure of a HIPAA record requires a written authorization, something the new system does not require.
The World Privacy Forum filed comments with the Department of Transportation today regarding the department’s publication of the detailed personal medical information of individuals subject to DOT regulations in the Federal Register along with their names, ages, and other identifying information. The WPF comments argue that personal medical information combined with name, age, etc. does not belong in the Federal Register, where it can have potentially far-reaching consequences for those individuals who are named as well as their family members.
e-Government /CIPSEA — The World Privacy Forum submitted comments to the Office of Management and Budget regarding proposed guidance on Title V of the e-Government Act. The proposed guidance did not address the relationship between CIPSEA and the USA PATRIOT Act Section 215, and guidance regarding identifiability and the Privacy Act of 1974 needs to be further refined. WPF suggests that OMB consider developing a formal statistical confidentiality seal controlled by a federal agency. The purpose would be to provide an identifiable marker that would tell individuals if the information they provide will receive the highest degree of confidentiality protection available under law.