Friday, August 07, 2009

Flag@whitehouse.gov: Don't Count on the White House Privacy Policy to Help You

I've put up the old 2¢ Newfoundland green fish stamp again, my symbol for the citizen spy network quietly announced on Tuesday at the official White House website. This network will collect private information about private citizens through forwarding "fishy" emails (as well as other web based information) about Barck Obama's proposed healthcare system to flag@whitehouse.gov. Setting up a citizen spy network--even if it is all volunteer, informal, and unpaid-- to report friends, neighbors, and those they do not know is a stunning break with the American past, and I am amazed how slowly this story has moved into the media. Today, I found an article on Drudge that quoted a judge that the data collection by the White House might fall afoul of the law. Perhaps you would like to read it.

Today, I also checked the ACLU website, supposedly full of people concerned about civil liberties. Not a word. I did find a link to a paper which maintains that the Privacy Act of 1974 (overview) banned the government from maintaining information on citizens who are not the targets of investigations. I also found a link to the ACLU's Privacy Principles. #1 is "Your personal information should never be collected or given out without your knowledge and permission."

Over at the Federal Trade Commission I found info that the FTC enforces companies' privacy promises about how they collect, use and secure consumers' personal information. I also found the White House Privacy Policy. The policy freely admits "We log IP addresses, which are the locations of computers or networks on the Internet, and analyze them in order to improve the value of our site."Unfortunately, there isn't any information about the collection of "fishy" emails, so I supposed that other than laws that apply to the executive branch, Americans are pretty well out of luck.

UPDATE: The Department of Justice has a number of Privacy and Civil Liberties Resources listed at its website. Under the provisions of the Patriot Act, the Department of Justice has a web page dedicated to receive complaints alleging abuses of civil rights and civil liberties. Unfortunately it is limited to DOJ employees. Perhaps you should write them anyway; maybe someone over there has an interest in civil rights?

2 Comments:

Blogger StD said...

Thank you for sharing and I love your Fishy fish symbol. I will post it. :-).

Aug 7, 2009, 9:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is the specific language from the White House web site:

"There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov."

This is the link: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/Facts-Are-Stubborn-Things/

Aug 8, 2009, 9:20:00 AM  

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