A number of the most fervent privacy groups today put out a report critiquing the Obama administration’s record to date on privacy issues. At only 9 months in, it seems a bit too soon to rate the Administration. As we have written previously, we do think there have been early indications of a commitment to ensuring that privacy issues are given high priority in the policy process. But clearly there are very high hopes in the advocacy community that this Administration will lean on its many tech savvy appointees to forge new paths that ensure the advances of technology are harnessed in a manner that advances both the needs of government and civil liberties. Likewise, we think that many of the more progressive companies in the business community are eager to see the government take steps to help increase the trust necessary for citizens to embrace the advances enabled by new technologies.
What about the privacy of our youth? Obama may be the first president to offer our children some personal privacy advice. Yesterday, when he was asked for some guidance on how to become president, he told several ninth graders, “Be careful what you post on Facebook.”
One thing that Congress can do to help is to confirm Cass Sunstein, the Administration’s nominee for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is the office at OMB that helps oversee government agency privacy issues. Sunstein comes to the position with a close relationship with the President and a long history writing and thinking about the impact of technology and society. The sooner the administration can have a focal point for privacy issues, the sooner we can expect to see progress on many of the privacy issues at stake.