Privacy in a Time of Emerging Tech

Plus, the President introduces his $4 trillion budget for fiscal 2015, which included various tech-related expenditures.

by / December 17, 2014

When Edward Snowden revealed to journalists classified NSA documents exposing global surveillance programs, everything changed for privacy. While that occurred in May 2013, the implications have been far reaching and nonstop. Citizens clamored to know how far government — at all levels — can go in the name of security, and governments sought to understand what evolving technology means in terms of privacy. As big data and predictive analytics became major themes in state and local government, policymakers struggled, in part, because the issues are unprecedented. With technology firmly embedded in our everyday lives, when is the line crossed from harnessing data for better decision-making to invading an individual’s privacy?

One way governments are tackling the issue is by establishing positions charged with protecting privacy. Chief privacy officers aren’t new to government, Ohio’s had one since 2007, but the job title is gaining ground in the public sector.

“As more data becomes electronic, the risks get vastly greater, and that can trigger a lot more laws that govern the data,” Sallie Milam, chief privacy officer of West Virginia, said earlier this year. “At the same time, the public’s expectations are growing and compliance obligations are expanding.”

Privacy received another round of national attention in March when a lawsuit revealed that Google was scanning the email content of students using its Apps for Education suite for purposes including targeting potential advertising at users. By the end of the year’s legislative sessions, student data privacy bills were enacted in 20 states.

Clearly the issue of privacy isn’t going away, as government and industry introduce new data-driven technologies. But what will change is the definition of privacy for citizens and how rules will govern data protection. Legislatures and IT chiefs will once again take up the issue in 2015, seeking ways to protect data and harness it for a smarter future.

Back to the Year in Review: Making Sense of 2014

Elaine Pittman Former Managing Editor

Elaine Pittman worked for Government Technology from 2008 to 2017.

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