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Home > Privacy and Business > Getting Results from Privacy Law and Regulation

Getting Results from Privacy Law and Regulation

Before the U.S. federal government embarks on further regulation of private sector information practices, it should assess the results of the existing law and regulation. Happily, this is already required.

The Government Performance and Results Act (P.L. 103-62) requires federal agencies to establish clear goals based on their statutory authority and to report annually on their progress in meeting those goals. Federal agencies now prepare multi-year strategic plans, annual performance plans, and annual performance reports for Congress. The performance plans and reports are supposed to have outcome measures (like "lives saved") rather than process measures (like "guidebooks printed" or "dollars spent") so that Congress, the press, and the public can assess what laws and regulations are actually working.

With numerous new privacy laws on the books in areas such as medical privacy, financial privacy, and online privacy, Results Act assessments are needed. The agencies that implement these laws should establish numeric performance measures of consumer privacy, analyze the current state of consumer privacy, and then show how the regulations increase consumer privacy.

This is not an easy intellectual exercise because "privacy" reflects the values of individuals, which governments are in a difficult position to protect. Nonetheless, if taxpayer dollars are to be consumed and business practices altered in the name of privacy, the results of that spending and regulating should be measured.


"About HHS" web page (with links to Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plans and Reports) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (medical privacy)

"Mission, Goals and Results" web page U.S. Department of the Treasury (financial privacy)

"Government Performance and Results Act" web page Federal Trade Commission (financial and online privacy)

"NCUA Strategic Plan" web page National Credit Union Administration (financial privacy)

"About the SEC" web page (with links to Strategic Plan) Securities and Exchange Commission (financial privacy)

Restoring Government Integrity Through Performance, Results, and Accountability by Virginia L. Thomas, Heritage Foundation (June 26, 2000)

Comments? (Subject: Results)

[updated 04/18/02]

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