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Home > Privacy and Government > Privacy Law Governing the Government Sector > General Laws > The Computer Security Act

The Computer Security Act

The Computer Security Act of 1987 provides for improving the security and privacy of sensitive information in federal computer systems. "Security" is, of course, different than "privacy." The security measures in any system are what enable it to operate fully, including maintaning privacy.

The Act defines "sensitive information" to include any unclassified information that, if lost, misused, or accessed or modified without authorization, could adversely affect the national interest, conduct of federal programs, or the privacy to which individuals are entitled under the Privacy Act.

The Computer Security Act requires federal agencies to identify their computer systems that contain sensitive information, establish training programs to increase security awareness and knowledge of security practices, and establish a plan for the security and privacy of each computer system with sensitive information.

The Computer Security Act seems to have had little effect on keeping personal and private information in the hands of the federal government secure. Security flaws in government computer systems are routinely exposed, and security lapses remain a major threat to the privacy of personal information in government databases.


Report Card on Computer Security at Federal Departments and Agencies Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology (September 11, 2000)

Computer Security: Critical Federal Operations and Assets Remain at Risk General Accounting Office (September 11, 2000)

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[updated 02/17/02]

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