Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama on privacy

EPIC has been surveying Barack Obama's views on executive power and privacy.

"[1] Privacy '08: Election of Barack Obama to Be the 44th President

On January 20, 2009, President Elect Obama will become the 44th
President of the United States. Throughout his campaign for the
presidency, Senator Obama addressed the issues of privacy, Executive
Authority, and data protection beginning with the release of his
technology policy's position paper for his campaign in November 2007.
The technology policy position paper said, "Safeguard our Right to
Privacy: The open information platforms of the 21st century can also
tempt institutions to violate the privacy of citizens. As president,
Barack Obama will strengthen privacy protections for the digital age
and will harness the power of technology to hold government and
business accountable for violations of personal privacy."

In December 2007, Senator Obama, responsed to a Boston Globe
presidential candidate survey on presidential power. The survey
included a question on whether the president has inherent powers under
the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes
without judicial warrants. Senator Obama's reply rejected the assertion
that the President has the power by stating "The Supreme Court has
never held that the president has such powers. As president, I will
follow existing law, and when it comes to U.S. citizens and residents,
I will only authorize surveillance for national security purposes
consistent with FISA and other federal statutes." The survey asked a
question about presidential discretion, "Does the Constitution empower
the president to disregard a congressional statute limiting the
deployment of troops...?" Senator Obama responded that "No, the
President does not have that power."

In March 2008, it was disclosed that a State Department employee
repeatedly breached the passport files of Senators Clinton, McCain, and
Senator Obama. In response, Senator Obama spoke forcefully about the
privacy rights of data subjects and said that the matter should be
investigated "diligently and openly." He spoke of the need of the
American people to be secure in the belief that their records with
government agencies are kept private by saying, "One of the things that
the American people count on in their interactions with any level of
government is that if they have to disclose personal information, that
it will stay personal and stay private." Senator Obama also called for
the full participation of Congressional Oversight Committees in the
investigation, "I think that it should be done in conjunction with
those Congressional Committees that have oversight so that it is not
simply an internal matter. It is not because I have any particular
concern... but because we should have a set clear principles for
people having confidence that when they give information to their
government, that it is not going to be misused."

Senator Obama also spoke in support of medical and family privacy
when confronted by reporters for comment following the disclosure
that Governor Palin's unwed teenage daughter was pregnant, by saying
"Let me be as clear as possible. I think people's families are off-
imits, and people's children are especially off-limits. This shouldn't
be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin's
performance as governor or her potential performance as a vice
president." He ended his comments by saying, "My mother was eighteen
when she had me."

President-elect Obama, a former Constitutional law professor, in the
final debate prior to the election, expressed his position that the
"Constitution has a right to privacy in it that should not be subject
to state referenda."

Privacy emerged in other ways during the campaign, for example,
following her nomination, Governor Palin's personal e-mail account was
accessed by online snoopers. When accused of breaching local and state
government records related to a plumber repeatedly referenced by
Senator McCain during the final debate, Senate Obama said, "Invasions
of privacy should not be tolerated. If these records were accessed
inappropriately, it had nothing to do with our campaign and should be
investigated fully."

EPIC's Privacy '08 campaign enters the transition phase in preparation
for the next Administration. The campaign was successful in engaging
candidates in discussions related to privacy policy and the next
administration. The focus of the project now shifts to administration
transition and federal government institution reform.

Candidate Obama Statement on Technology

Obama's Replies to Boston Globe Survey on Executive Authority

EPIC Alert 15.07 passport breach of State Department Records:

Obama's Response to Data Breach:

Obama on Constitutional Right to Privacy:

Obama on family privacy:

Joe the Plumber Data Breaches:

Privacy '08 Facebook Cause:

Privacy '08 on Twitter:

Privacy '08 CafePress:"

As a former constitutional law professor he might be expected to take robust views on the protection of privacy. What will be interesting is what he does in practice, if anything, to reverse some of the broad based, arguably unconstitutional excesses of the Bush administration e.g. the mass executive-approved wiretapping (bypassing the FISA court) and the privacy invasion facilitated by the US-PATRIOT Act.

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