Today, OpenTheGovernment.org and ten other organizations committed to openness, privacy, and free speech submitted comments to the Department of Justice on the FBI’s proposal to exempt its new records system, the Insider Threat Program Records (ITPR) system, from critical parts of the Privacy Act. The comments cite the Program’s potential to have a chilling effect on whistleblowing, and call for greater transparency and privacy protections.
The signatories oppose removing several key protections of the Privacy Act, specifically provisions that allow people to: (1) find out if they are in the ITPR database; (2) request the FBI promptly fix errors and inaccurate information in their files; and (3) obtain information (so long as it would not impede law enforcement) about whether their information is being shared with other parts of the government.
The FBI proposes to exempt the ITPR from the part of the Privacy Act that allows citizens to enforce any Privacy Act violation (5 U.S.C. § 552a(g)) – even violations of requirements from which the FBI is not exempt. It would also exempt the ITPR from subsection (e)(5) of the Privacy Act, which requires the FBI to maintain records with “accuracy, relevance, timeliness, and completeness as is reasonably necessary to assure fairness to the individual,” and from key provisions in the Privacy Act that allow individuals to find out if they are in the Insider Threat database. Considering the potential consequences of decisions made based on ITPR information, we are troubled that the proposed rule would also exempt the FBI from having to ensure their own records are accurate, relevant, timely, and complete
The comments also include an objection by the groups to the fact that related System of Records Notice, published on the same day, does not provide an opportunity for electronic public comment.
Read the full comments here.