On February 9, 2017, six Democratic senators wrote to DHS Secretary John Kelly about their concerns over a Trump executive order that would remove Privacy Act protections for non-U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
Senators Ed Markey (MA), Ron Wyden (OR), Jeff Merkley (OR), Al Franken (MN), Chris Coons (DE), and Mazie Hirono (HI) wrote that Section 14 of the order would make it easier for government agencies to share non-citizens’ personal information with Congress and the public.
The senators condemned the “devastating impact” exclusion from the Privacy Act could have on immigrant communities, and its inconsistency with the commitments made when the government collected much of this information. The senators also cautioned that the provision could endanger protections for U.S. citizens’ data when they travel abroad if foreign governments choose to remove reciprocal protections.
The senators likened Section 14 to the “disturbing moment in American history” when the Census Bureau gave names and addresses of Japanese Americans to the Treasury Secretary during World War II, and warned that it may also discourage reporting of personal information to the government for legitimate purposes.
The senators’ letter requested written responses to ten questions regarding DHS’s envisioned use of other agencies’ databases, potential public disclosure of individuals’ private data, individuals’ access to their own records, protection of citizens and permanent residents, and the effect of the provision on the Judicial Redress Act, the U.S.-E.U. Privacy Shield agreement, and Presidential Policy Directive 28.