Cybersecurity shines in otherwise disappointing administration privacy report card

The Washington, DC-based privacy advocacy group gave the Obama administration a “B” on its cybersecurity efforts in the 2010 report card, the same grade it received in 2009. Grades in other privacy areas tracked by the group declined from 2009.

On the administration’s cybersecurity efforts, EPIC commented:

“For 2010, we see a continued effort by the administration to safeguard privacy rights for internet users, but we also note the growing influence of the NSA [National Security Agency]. The NSA director was named head of Cyber Command and has recently signed an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security that transfers new powers to the intelligence agency. We believe the White House could raise its grade in this area by being more transparent about the role of the NSA in cybersecurity. Releasing key documents about the NSA’s cybersecurity authority would be a good start."

On medical privacy, EPIC gave the administration a “B” grade, down from an “A–“ in 2009 based on the privacy safeguards in the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HI-TECH) Act. The administration’s 2010 medical privacy record is “less clear,” EPIC said. “Implementation of the privacy provisions in the 2009 law have [sic] slowed. Privacy experts are underrepresented on key committees and the willingness of the White House to press for strong safeguards for patients remains unclear.”

On consumer privacy, the administration received a grade of “C” in 2010 after an “incomplete” in 2009 for not filling privacy posts at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The results for 2010 are “not impressive”, EPIC opined.

“The FTC has been unable or unwilling to pursue any significant privacy investigations. The agency has become a black hole for privacy complaints that earlier commissions routinely pursued. The White House offers little support for privacy efforts in Congress. Meanwhile, public concerns about identify theft, security breaches, and online profiting are on the rise.”

Finally, EPIC gave President Obama a dismal “D” on civil liberties in 2010, compared to a “C+“ in 2009. “The Obama [adminstration] has aggressively asserted the ‘state secrets’ doctrine, expanded Fusion Centers and watch lists, and subjected all American air travelers to unconstitutional body searches in airports. Incredibly, the White House allowed the President’s Civil Liberties and Privacy Oversight Board to languish. Even the Bush administration made this a priority.”

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