Records, Computers and the Rights of Citizens

Although identity theft is now getting more media coverage than it once did, the need to protect the sensitive personal information that’s used to commit identity theft has been well known for many years. As far back as 1973 this was know to be a problem. That’s when the report Records, Computers and the Rights of Citizens was written for Caspar Weinberger, who was then Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

This report discussed the problems of privacy and recommended that the following five principles be used to create a “federal code of fair information practice” that would be enforced by one or more federal laws:

  • There must be no personal data record keeping systems whose very existence is secret.
  • There must be a way for an individual to find out what information about him is in a record and how it is used.
  • There must be a way for an individual to prevent information about him that was obtained for one purpose from being used or made available for other purposes without his consent.
  • There must be a way for an individual to correct or amend a record of identifiable information about him.
  • Any organization creating, maintaining, using, or disseminating records of identifiable personal data must assure the reliability of the data for their intended use and must take precautions to prevent misuse of the data.

The government has known for over 35 years that protecting sensitive personal information is a problem that needs to be addressed. Let’s hope that they can manage to do what needs to be done before we can say that they’ve known about the problem for over 40 years and still not addressed it.

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