Coalition opposes secret expansion of government monitoring and data mining

Growing surveillance programs demand greater transparency, must adhere to privacy laws   

Today, Open The Government joined a broad coalition of privacy, civil liberties, government openness, accountability, and immigrant rights groups in opposing the Trump administration’s secret expansion of government monitoring and data collection programs. The comments filed today raise alarm over the Department of Homeland Security’s latest plans to collect and share biometric data on a large scale, and demand that any new databases adhere to laws that protect privacy and civil liberties.

“We cannot let the rapid expansion of government monitoring and data collection take place behind a dark cloud of secrecy,” said Lisa Rosenberg, Executive Director of Open The Government. “There is an urgent need to know how the administration is gathering personal information, and any new databases must be subject to key laws essential to keep the public safe from government overreach.”

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to create a massive new database and collect extensive information of any noncitizen applying for immigration benefits and anyone with a connection to the applicant, including U.S. citizens. The information gathered will then be shared across federal and local law enforcement agencies. Of great concern, the proposal excludes the new database from important provisions in the Privacy Act, shrouding the program in secrecy.  

Enacted in 1974 in response to concern about illegal surveillance by federal agencies, the Privacy Act restricts disclosure of personal data and provides individuals the right to access and amend information maintained by the government. Such protections remain critically important, particularly as the administration continues its expansion of its big data mining and surveillance of immigrant communities.

Read the coalition comments opposing the Department of Homeland Security’s new proposal, here.