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President-elect has plans for civil liberties

President-elect has plans for civil liberties

How will President-elect Barack Obama safeguard civil liberties and protect privacy? Believe it or not, he spells out what he hopes to do on his ‘Change’ website, which keeps people informed about the period of transition to full presidential power in January 2009.

Obama plans to reform, boost civil liberties body

By Bill Rowlings, with Jan Whitaker*

US President-elect Barack Obama has set out some clear plans for how he wants his Administration to operate in the areas of civil liberties and privacy.

The website – – covers many aspects of his plans for 2009 and beyond, but here are some relevant to Civil Liberties Australia’s areas of interest:

Give real authority to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board: Created by Congress and recommended by the 9/11 Commission, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board needs to be substantially reformed and empowered to safeguard against an erosion in American civil liberties, PE Obama says.

“(We) will support efforts to strengthen the Board with subpoena powers and reporting responsibilities, will give the Board a robust mandate designed to protect American civil liberties and will demand transparency from the Board to ensure accountability,” he says.

Mandate standards for personal data and disclosure of breaches: Nearly 10 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year, costing more than $55 billion (about $Aust 80bn).

“We must ensure that the privacy of personnel data in computer systems is better protected. The federal government must partner with industry and our citizens to secure personal data stored on government and private systems. An Obama administration will institute a common standard for securing such data across industries and will back strong legislation to protect the rights of individuals in the information age.”

But, at the same time, PE Obama will create a senior position to coordinate domestic intelligence gathering; establish a grant program to support thousands more state and local level intelligence analysts; and increase capacity to share intelligence across all levels of government.

He also promises to keep the government out of Americans’ pockets.

Safeguard right to privacy: Because open information platforms can tempt institutions to violate the privacy of citizens, PE Obama is promising to strengthen privacy protections and harness technology to hold government and business accountable for violations of personal privacy.

Under his health care plan, information technology would be used to lower the cost of health care. “Most medical records are still stored on paper, which makes them difficult to use to coordinate care, measure quality, or reduce medical errors,” the Change website says.

“Processing paper claims also costs twice as much as processing electronic claims. (We) will invest $10 billion (about $Aust 15bn) a year over the next five years to move the US health care system to broad adoption of standards-based electronic health information systems, including electronic health records.”


* Bill Rowlings is CEO of CLA; Jan Whitaker is a privacy expert and consultant, who holds renewed hope for greater privacy protection in the future than in the recent past in her homeland.

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