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EPIC Issues Privacy Threat System

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has issued a new Privacy Threat Index to track the threat to privacy resulting from the expansion of government surveillance.

The San Francisco-based privacy rights group hopes the index will reflect how much the government is flexing its new surveillance powers through laws and regulations such as the Patriot Act and the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness program.

Following the lead of the Department of Homeland Security's color-coded terrorist threat system, EPIC currently ranks the privacy threat to Americans at a yellow ("elevated") level. EPIC's levels begin at green (low), followed by blue (guarded), yellow and orange (severe).

"We will use the Privacy Threat Index to assess developments in the United States and to compare activities in countries around the world," said Marc Rotenberg, EPIC's executive director.

Rotenberg said the index was prompted by the following developments:

  • The federal government's increased funding for surveillance systems;
  • The government's efforts to expand the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; and
  • The FBI's recent proposal to relax the accuracy requirements for the National Crime Information Center data.
  • Rotenberg also cited the Justice Department's proposals for the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, also known as Patriot Act II, which would allegedly expand the FBI's wiretapping rights to the Internet and impose additional prison sentences if encryption is used in the execution of a crime.

    While the proposals for Patriot II have been much publicized, no actual legislation has been introduced, not has the Justice Department even confirmed it is considering the proposals. All alleged provisions have come from leaks within Justice.

    According to Rotenberg, EPC did not raise the privacy threat higher because of congressional action that has cut off funding for the Pentagon's data mining proposals and lawmakers' call for further investigation into the Transportation Security Administration's controversial plan to profile airline travelers.