Governors seek new safeguards for data

With technology rapidly outpacing policy, major improvements are needed at the state level to better protect sensitive criminal and civil justice information, according to a brief released by the National Governors Association's Center for Best Practices.

The speed at which new justice information systems allow data to be shared, sold and analyzed has led to improved communications and awareness, according to the brief, 'Protecting Privacy in Integrated Justice Systems.'

But these new systems also have unintended consequences. For one, they can violate privacy protections by inadvertently revealing the identity of victims and witnesses, and law enforcement and court personnel.

While justice records always have been public information to some degree, they also are big business, as such data is now a source of revenue for states. Last year, the sale of one state's driver's license records brought in between $30 million and $40 million, according to the brief.

There are roughly 227 million registered drivers in the United States, and states sell each record for 50 cents to $6, according to the brief. States also sell criminal history and tax records.

Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin are looking at ways to protect sensitive data. States can improve privacy protection by:
  • Establishing a collaborative process to develop privacy policies for justice information sharing initiatives

  • Identifying areas where justice information sharing initiatives put individuals' privacy protections at risk

  • Conducting legal analyses of privacy laws and regulations that impact justice information sharing systems

  • Defining statewide privacy principles to govern the operation of justice information sharing initiatives

  • Developing privacy policies that protect information in different contextual settings

  • Enforcing accountability and setting minimum security statewide standards for justice information sharing initiatives.


Ethan Butterfield is a staff writer for Government Computer News' sister publication, Washington Technology.

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