It may sound like a setup for a SNL skit, but it’s true: the membership list of the Congressional Privacy Caucus remains private. The Congressional Member Organization has registered as an official caucus of the 112th Congress but hasn’t updated its leadership since Co-Chair Christopher Dodd left the Senate to take up a position as a lobbyist for the movie industry.
Three other Co-Chairs of the Privacy Caucus are listed: Representative Joe Barton, Representative Ed Markey and Senator Richard Shelby. Presumably they would stand in agreement with the following list of Privacy Caucus principles:
1. Notice: Individuals must be informed in a clear and conspicuous manner when private companies or governmental agencies plan to collect, use, and/or disclose personally identifiable information, and individuals must be told the intended recipient of the information and the purpose(s) for which it shall be used.
2. Access and Correction: An individual must have access to personally identifiable information held by a private company or governmental agency to make sure it is accurate, timely, and complete and customers must have the ability to correct erroneous information.
3. Consent: A private company or governmental agency must receive prior affirmative consent of the individual before it uses and/or discloses that individual’s information for any other purpose other than for which it was originally given.
4. Preemption: Individuals must benefit from the strongest privacy protections available, therefore, federal privacy protections must not preempt state laws or other regulations that provide stronger privacy protections.
So one would presume. But in February of this year Joe Barton in the House and Richard Shelby in the Senate voted to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act without any reforms to it. The Patriot Act pre-empts state privacy protections (Principle 4) to allow agents of the federal government to search through a person’s business records, library records, communications, office, car and home without probable cause, without notice (Principle 1) or consent (Principle 3). If you want to find out when and how Patriot Act powers have been used to invade your privacy (Principle 2), you’ll have to file a lawsuit that the government will fight against tooth and nail.
Of the three leaders of the Privacy Caucus, only Ed Markey voted against reauthorization of the Patriot Act. There must be some reasons the other two Privacy Caucus leaders have to vote for the invasions of privacy that they rhetorically oppose. Whatever reasons those may be, Shelby and Barton have kept them private.