DHS creates privacy principles for scientific research

The Department of Homeland Security establishes a set of principles it plans to apply to its science and technology research to protect people's privacy.

Stephanie Condon Staff writer, CBSNews.com
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.
Stephanie Condon
2 min read

The Department of Homeland Security in a data mining report (PDF) sent to Congress on Monday laid out a set of principles for implementing privacy protections in its science and technology research.

The DHS privacy office worked with the department's directorate of science and technology to develop principles that could be applied to research and development projects involving data mining, to ensure they further the department's mission while protecting privacy.

Privacy impacts should be considered from a project's inception, the report says, so the "purpose specification principle" dictates that a project's purpose will be clearly articulated and documented through an internal and external review process of its legal authorization, purpose limitations, and effectiveness.

The department intends to foster public trust through the "transparency principle," which says the directorate of science and technology will conduct privacy impact assessments for all research projects involving personally identifiable information and publish the assessments for any non-classified projects.

The public should also be confident the department will only use the data it needs and keeps it secure, the report says. The department articulated principles establishing that it will only use data reasonably considered accurate and consistent with all applicable privacy policies.

The principles also state the department will use the least amount of personally identifiable information needed and that it will take all reasonable steps necessary to protect the data from inappropriate or unauthorized access, use, disclosure, or destruction.

The report calls for project personnel to receive privacy training covering general DHS policies as well as privacy protections built into research projects. It also calls for audits to ensure compliance with project access and data usage rules.

The DHS privacy office intends to establish a redress program to handle questions and complaints regarding the science and technology directorate's research. The privacy office and directorate are also working together to create a plan to help apply the principles to new projects.

The science and technology directorate's research spans biological research on animal diseases, social-behavioral research on the motivations of terrorism, and the development of new physical screening technologies.