A series of studies by the General Accounting Office have revealed that
Web sites operated by the U.S. federal government have privacy and security
practices that range from marginally adequate to shockingly weak.
On September 5, 2000 GAO released a study commissioned by Senator and Vice
Presidential candidate Joseph I. Lieberman (D-CT) that revealed how weakly
Office of Management and Budget dictates on federal Web site privacy protection
In a survey of online privacy protections at government-run Web sites, GAO
found that 23 of the 70 agencies it surveyed had disclosed personal information
gathered from Web sites to third parties, mostly other government
agencies. At least four agencies had shared information with private entities.
A second study, issued September 6, 2000 to Chairman Steve Horn (R-CA) of the
Subcommitte on Government Management, Information and Technology, found that
information security practices at U.S. federal government agencies are fraught
with weaknesses. The study found that "information security weaknesses place
enormous amounts of confidential data, ranging from personal and tax to proprietary
business information, at risk of inappropriate disclosure.
A third GAO study, released September 12, found that a staggering
97 percent of federal websites did not adhere to the principles of notice, choice,
access, and security that the Federal Trade Commission has
recommended imposing on private-sector Web sites.
This latter study is especially significant
because citizens do not have a choice whether or not to deal with the federal
government. If unsatisfied with the information practices of private sector Web
sites and businesses, consumers may refuse to do business with them, but this is
not the case with governments.
Most Federal Sites
Fail Privacy Test by Brock Meeks, MSNBC (September 12, 2000)
Privacy: Comparison of Federal Agency Practices with FTC's Fair Information
Principles General Accounting Office (September 11, 2000)
Security: Serious and Widespread Weaknesses Persist at Federal Agencies General Accounting Office (September 6, 2000)