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CDT: Commission Needed to Explore Revamping Privacy Act

The Privacy Act of 1974 is in need of improvements to ensure its relevance into the future, CDT Deputy Director Ari Schwartz said in testimony before a congressional panel today. The Act’s limitations are particularly apparent with regard to government use of commercially compiled personal information, Schwartz told the Information Policy, Census, and National Archives Subcommittee. Commercial information plays a key role in important government functions, like law enforcement and national security. However, agencies relying on that data should have clear guidelines on its use. The role Privacy Impact Assessments play in protecting privacy is essential. Two bills help bolster PIAs: S.2341 lays out "best practices" guidelines and HR 4791 requires PIAs for government use of commercial databases. CDT believes Congress should create a Commission to review the Act and suggest possible reforms.