Intelligence Community Workshop: Privacy and Best Practices

DNI sealIn July 2015, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) sponsored a workshop titled “Privacy Research and Best Practices“. The Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CTSB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened the workshop and has recently published the summary.

The workshop hosted panels featuring professionals from the intelligence community and the National Academies, and focused on three major areas, as discussed by the summary: 1.) Privacy challenges presented by new technologies, 2.) ways of understanding the public’s behavior and attitudes about data collection and use, and 3.) methodologies for making decisions about data collection and use that go beyond mere compliance with the law.

Workshop participants noted the keen divergence between public opinion and the opinion of some members of the intelligence community. Unlike the public perspective, the opinion remains within the intelligence community that the current governance framework and set of rules provides balance between security and privacy. This struggle to find balance is a recurring theme of the workshop, and certainly a recurring theme in public discourse, as policymakers and professionals find themselves at a crossroads between rapidly emerging technology, stagnant policy institutions, the need for security, and a cautious and vocal public. Alexander W. Joel, a civil liberties protection officer at ODNI presented a quote from President Obama: “Those who are troubled by our existing programs are not interested in repeating the tragedy of 9/11, and those who defend these programs are not dismissive of civil liberties. The challenge is getting the details right, and that is not simple.”