Group gives Obama administration poor grades on Internet privacy
The Electronic Privacy and Information Center delivered average to poor grades to the Obama administration on consumer privacy issues, saying in its annual privacy report card that the federal government has done worse this year in protecting civil liberties.
The White House recently established an inter-agency task force for Internet privacy, and two privacy bills are under consideration in the House. But consumer advocacy groups say the U.S. appears to lag European and other nations that have responded more quickly to a growing number of privacy breaches by social networks and Internet sites. At the same time, the U.S. has taken a more aggressive approach to profiling travelers and expanding its ability to surveil Internet networks.
In its Obama Administration 2010 report card released last week, the privacy advocacy group gave the administration a “D” in protection of civil liberties, noting that the Obama administration has expanded watch lists and implemented body searches in airports. Last year, the group gave the White House a “C” in civil liberties, saying the administration had inherited many troubling programs from the previous administration such as the Patriot Act, fusion centers and no-fly lists.
“We wish we could give higher marks to the former law school professor now in the White House,” EPIC wrote. “But it doesn’t take a legal scholar to conclude that little has changed.”
As reported by Edward Cody in Brussels, the European Union has pushed against U.S. attempts to share airline passenger data and other information designed to catch would-be terrorists more quickly.
On consumer protection, EPIC gave the government a “C” compared with an “incomplete” grade last year.
Other privacy advocates echo EPIC’s concerns that the U.S. has been slow to respond to mounting concerns over the approach companies such as Google and Facebook take to privacy.
Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, noted that after Google admitted last week that its Street View cars collected e-mail, URLs and passwords of unencrypted Wi-Fi networks, the U.K. immediately opened a new investigation into the firm and Italy required labeling of Street View cars. Canada announced this month that its investigation into the episode concluded Google violated its privacy laws.
“Where’s the U.S. on this? Nowhere to be found. Everyone else, however, is moving forward on privacy and leaving the U.S. – the home to all these Internet companies – way behind,” Chester said.
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| October 27, 2010; 8:46 AM ET
Categories: Facebook, Google, Privacy
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