18 July 2006

The Honorable Ed Markey
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative Markey:

Consumers Union, the nonprofit, independent publisher of Consumer Reports is writing in strong support of your amendment to the FY07 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill. The amendment would require that DHS certify that any companies with which it enters into contracts are incompliance with the Fair Information Practices (FIPs) developed by the Federal Trade Commission. This is particularly important, given the sensitive nature of the data and the potential uses by DHS.

Consumers should know that their privacy will be protected when the government wishes to collect and use their personal information, whether the government does so directly or contracts with a data broker to do so. Yet currently, a government agency such as DHS must follow the Privacy Act of 1974 (which is based on FIPs) only when it directly collects and uses the information; it can circumvent these privacy protections when it contracts with data brokers.

Thank you for your leadership on these issues.

Sincerely,

Susanna Montezemolo
Policy Analyst