A lacunae in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights is an explicit right to privacy. The ease with which our personal information can be exploited for the gain of others and have no penalties attached to that exploitation is unacceptable. Identity theft is big right now because of the news about the VA theft, but more insidious to my mind is the vast amount of data, both valid and false, that is exchanged by private companies and which is used to make decisions about things like credit, housing and healthcare. There needs to be more transparency to the citizens about what this data says and how it is used (which includes free access to my own data, thank you very much), and also allowing consumers to build walls between collections of data, forcing information agencies to obtain explicit consent from the consumer to exchange information.
By DEVLIN BARRETT Associated Press Writer
June 16,2006 | WASHINGTON -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, drawing on her experiences as a young Watergate lawyer who decades later was investigated as first lady, urged creation of a "privacy bill of rights" Friday to protect people's personal data.
"Modern life makes many things easier and many things easier to know, and yet privacy is somehow caught in the crosshairs of these changes," Clinton said in a speech to a left-leaning legal group.
Clinton's speech on protecting consumers from identity theft and citizens from government snooping was the latest in a series of talks billed as "major addresses" by aides. Previous speeches were on energy and the economy.
A potential presidential candidate in 2008 whose eight years as first lady were marked by numerous investigations, Clinton noted her work on a House committee investigating the Nixon administration's illegal snooping and other abuses.
And she ruefully called herself an "expert" in the loss of privacy.
"Having lost so much of my own privacy in recent years I have a deep appreciation of its value and a firm commitment to protecting it for all the rest of you," she said, prompting laughter from the audience of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.
Clinton wants to create a "privacy czar" within the White House to guard against recent problems like the theft of personal data from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
She also wants legislation to let consumers know what information companies are keeping about them and how it is used, and create a tiered system of penalties for companies who are not careful with consumer data.
Clinton also waded into the debate over anti-terror eavesdropping. For months Democrats have hammered at the Bush administration over the National Security Agency's program of domestic wiretapping without warrants from judges. The administration insists it is both legal and necessary.
Clinton said any president should have the latest technology to track terrorists, but within laws that provide for oversight by judges.
"The administration's refrain has been, "Trust us,'" said Clinton. "That's unacceptable. Their track record doesn't warrant our trust. ... Unchecked mass surveillance without judicial review may sometimes be legal but it is dangerous. Every president should save those powers for limited critical situations."
I am frankly more concerned about this issue than I am about almost any other domestic policy. Why? Because protecting your privacy is fundamental to exercizing your rights. My employment should not depend on me having no late bills on my credit card. My health insurance should not be influenced by whether I belong to gay rights organizations. My government has no business knowing how I spend my evenings.
So, here's another reason why I'll vote for Sen. Clinton without hesitation. Bloggers on the left who spew right-wing talking points about the senator instead of creating persuasive arguments in support of their own candidates don't get any traction with me. As I've always said, Sen. Clinton is about 5th or 6th on my list of preferred candidates, and all of them are so much better than anything the Republicans have to offer up, I don't know why there is any debate.
My buddy Fergus (get your own blog) came up with a good catch phrase - stop doing the Republican's work for them. You don't have to bash a Democratic candidate to promote another one. You can object to the actions of party leaders on formal grounds - such as Schumer's threat to support a non-Democrat in a senate race - without engaging in character assassination. Unless a candidate does something illegal or in clear opposition to the party, they are in. People who are corrupt, like Jefferson, or who attack their own party, like Lieberman or Zell Miller, deserve a fast ticket to nowhere land.
Party unity, people.