Privacy: A hazy market

Steve LeSueur

When Washington Technology set out to write this issue's feature story, we envisioned an article that would examine new opportunities in the privacy arena for integrators and security specialists. Instead, we discovered the main point of concern today is not what can be done to protect privacy, but what should be done.

Congress, the administration and privacy advocates are still hotly debating numerous policy questions and legislative proposals that will determine what information can be collected, how it will be collected and who may see it.

Until this debate is settled, we won't know for sure what solutions are required or what opportunities exist.

The uncertainty could have serious implications for contractors working on homeland security projects. For our feature story, Staff Writer Alice Lipowicz compiled a long list of projects that were derailed by privacy concerns. To avoid such problems, the Homeland Security Department is working to address privacy questions early in program development, but critics contend that DHS privacy officials lack sufficient clout to effectively do so.

Some people see necessary trade-offs between privacy and security, but privacy advocates say we must not sacrifice privacy or other liberties and rights. Instead, they say we must find ways to protect privacy rights while ensuring security.

But just what are those rights? And what is the standard or bar for determining whether those rights are protected? As Lipowicz shows in her article, until this debate is settled, contractors must watch for shifting ground as they build homeland security systems for the government.

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