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Privacy and Civil Liberties Officers

The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 passed a large number of regulations to increase national security. Increasing security protection, often, unfortunately decreases privacy protection, so the act also included a number of regulations restricting the use of personally identifiable information by the Federal Government. Among these regulations is Section 803, which amended the National Security Intelligence Reform Act. This policy created new positions called privacy and civil liberties officers to oversee the protection of such rights in government agencies and departments.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board

The Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 required the creation of a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. It is the responsibility of the board to help the President and other policymakers protect the privacy and civil liberties of all citizens when creating and implementing regulations. The Board consists of five members selected by the President. The Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Board must also be approve by the Senate.  Board members are United States citizens that are not members of the Federal Government. They are selected based on their individual qualifications and experience related to privacy and civil liberties advocacy and protection.

Privacy and Civil Liberties Officers

Section 803, requires the designation of a senior official or officials within a number of major Government departments and agencies to oversee privacy and civil liberties within their department. It is the responsibility of a Privacy and Civil Liberties Officer to:

  • Assist officials as they develop and institute new policies, procedures and regulations to make sure that privacy and civil liberties are taken into account
  • Investigate the department periodically to evaluate the consideration of privacy and civil liberties in its guidelines and procedures
  • Ensure that the agency has an appropriate redress mechanism to investigate and resolve privacy and civil liberties complaints
  • Help policy makers balance the need for power the the protection of privacy and civil liberties and that adequate guidelines are implemented to ensure such protections

The policy also created rules to prevent government employees from discouraging or negatively impacting a Privacy and Civil Liberties Officer’s ability to carry out their responsibilities.  All agencies are require to give the necessary resources and personnel to their designated Officer so that they may successfully complete their responsibilities. The Officer must be consulted by decision makers and be advised of any possible policy changes. Furthermore, no reprisal or threat of reprisal may be issued to an employee for sharing information with the Officer unless their claim is willfully false.

Enforcement

Privacy and Civil Liberties Officers must file quarterly reports of their activity with the relevant Congressional Committees, the head of their department and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

Each report must include:

  • Information regarding the number and types of reviews completed
  • The advice the Officer issued and the response it received in the department
  • The type and number of privacy and civil liberties complaints received
  • A summary of how the complaints were resolved, including how they were investigated and resolved, as well as their impact on privacy and civil liberties in the department.

All reports to Congress must be made available to the public, except that information considered to be classified.

Summary:

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and the designation of Privacy and Civil Liberties Officers is an important step in developing regulations that protect such rights. However, the Oversight Board and Officer positions play an advisory role, and they have no real authority to enforce their recommendations. Though both the National Security Reform Act of 2004 and the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, recognize the need to consider privacy and civil liberties during the development of new policies and regulations, there is still a ways to go before privacy and civil liberties are guaranteed protection.

CIPP/G Candidate Preparation

In preparation for the Certified Information Privacy Professional Government exam, a privacy professional should be comfortable with topics related to this post including:

  • Section 803 of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act
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