Thursday, April 14, 2005

We Need a U.S. Office of Privacy Protection

As mentioned yesterday on The Yellow Line, identity theft is skyrocketing. But it’s not as if the problem has gone unnoticed. An Internet search for “Identity Theft” returned a mind boggling 4.75 million results.

The Federal Trade Commission has a site about identity theft. So does the Department of Justice. And the Social Security Administration. And there are endless private organizations offering resources and assistance.

There are so many areas where your privacy and identity are vulnerable that the non-profit group The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has an indexed list with nearly 90 separate areas of concern. Just researching the seemingly endless problems with identity theft is enough to make you realize that there is no way one law or even a group of laws will adequately solve the problem. (Not that there is anything more than a smattering of laws right now.)

In addition to shoring up our laws, the Federal Government should also take a page from California and set up an Office of Privacy Protection. Identity theft is so expansive and, because of technology, evolves so quickly, that it makes sense to have an entire government organization tasked with monitoring, advising and acting on issues of identity theft and privacy violations—one office to consolidate and focus the government’s efforts and serve as the primary advocate of those whose identities have been stolen.

Expanding the role of government should always be done cautiously. But in this particular case, we should accept a little government expansion to help keep our privacy and identities intact.


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