EPIC: Obama must try harder on electronic privacy

Obama could have moved more quickly to appoint cyber-czar, says EPIC
Obama could have moved more quickly to appoint cyber-czar, says EPIC

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) issued the report card, grading the Obama administration on four key privacy areas, last week. It rated the government on consumer privacy, medical courtesy, civil liberties, and cyber security, but also polled the public for a separate response.

EPIC's own marks stretched from C+ to A-, with one incomplete, pending expected announcements by the government. The public was much harsher, scoring the White House with a solid F in each category.

EPIC rated the government highest in the area of medical privity, citing its proposed creation of a national medical health information network. It praised the President for banning the sale of health information and mandating the use of audit trails and encryption in legislation. "The privacy language in the HI-TECH Act makes the bill one of the best privacy laws in years," it said. "Still, implementation of privacy safeguards remains a key challenge."

The government fared less well in cyber security, scoring a B from EPIC. Obama's failure to yet name a cyber security czar, following Melissa Hathaway's cyber security review and subsequent departure, lost him valuable marks in this area.

But the government's mark on cyber security was still better than the C+ it received in the civil liberties category. EPIC said that the Obama administration has inherited many troubling programs from the Bush White House, including the Patriot Act, and the No-Fly Lists.

"EPIC is disappointed that there has not been more progress revising such legal doctrines as 'state secrets' and such intrusive government programmes as Fusion Centres and watch lists," the report card warned.

Finally, the government received an incomplete score in the area of consumer privacy. No legislation has been passed to advance consumer privacy, and two of the five FTC commissioner slots remained unfilled at the time of writing, it said. EPIC awarded the incomplete score on the understanding that the Obama administration would be appointing the two remaining Commissioners shortly.

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