William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal
Information About Individuals in the Hands of Government: Some Reflections on Mechanisms for Privacy Protection
Information is the handmaiden of the modern activist state. In particular, information provided by individuals to government enables government to assess and collect taxes, to distribute social welfare benefits, and to pursue its regulatory agenda. Computer technology enhances the government's ability to gather, store, analyze, and process personal data. Computers make it easy for government agencies to share with one another information provided to them by individual citizens.
These facts bring issues of "informational privacy" to the fore. In this Article, Professor BeVier examines one such issue, namely that of unconsented-to use by government of accurate information provided by citizens about themselves. Professor BeVier frames the issue in part as a problem in the control of information but primarily as a problem in the control of government. Neither the Privacy Act of 1974 nor the Computer Matching Act of 1988 nor the privacy exemptions of the Freedom of Information Act effectively constrain unconsented-to use or disclosure of personal data by federal agencies. Nor, she concludes, would the Data Protection Board advocated by most other commentators represent a genuine solution.