GAO Watchblog Reblog: Personal Information, Private Companies

The recent Congressional hearings on Facebook have highlighted the ways that companies collect and use personal information for marketing purposes.  So, what rights do you have to your own information?

The GAO outlined the lack of comprehensive legislation that addresses privacy in their 2013 report on the subject:

No overarching federal privacy law governs the collection and sale of personal information among private-sector companies, including information resellers. Instead, a variety of laws tailored to specific purposes, situations, or entities governs the use, sharing, and protection of personal information. For example, the Fair Credit Reporting Act limits the use and distribution of personal information collected or used to help determine eligibility for such things as credit or employment, but does not apply to information used for marketing. Other laws apply specifically to health care providers, financial institutions, videotape service providers, or to the online collection of information about children.

The current statutory framework for consumer privacy does not fully address new technologies–such as the tracking of online behavior or mobile devices–and the vastly increased marketplace for personal information, including the proliferation of information sharing among third parties. With regard to data used for marketing, no federal statute provides consumers the right to learn what information is held about them and who holds it.

These findings are still relevant today.

Read more here.

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GAO WatchBlog ReBlog: The Internet of Things — Are we ready for 50 billion things?

Your Fitbit, TV remote, microwave, and other wireless devices that use a network to communicate are part of the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Their use is growing fast—some experts forecast that 25-50 billion devices will be in use by 2025.

But the IoT depends on the availability of a finite resource—the radio frequency spectrum.

Read more here about the GAO’s recommendations to the FCC to expand efforts to make more spectrum available, use it more efficiently, or expand spectrum sharing.

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GAO WatchBlog Reblog: 2017 High Risk List

This year, we added the federal government’s environmental liability to our High Risk List—our biennial report highlighting areas particularly susceptible to fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, or needing a fundamental transformation.

When federal government activities contaminate the environment, the government’s on the hook for the cleaning bill. In 2016, this bill was estimated to be $447 billion, and the actual costs may be more.

Read more here, or watch the video below.

 

Want to know what else made the high risk list this year? Check it out.

 

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GAO WatchBlog ReBlog: The insights and analyses from mapping data

Geographic information systems (GIS) are powerful tools that display spatial information (such as locations on a map) in order to help us understand patterns and relationships about our world.

So, with National GIS Day on November 16th, the WatchBlog is looking at how this technology helps us communicate clearly and answer complex questions about loan programs, Amtrak service, and more.

Read more here about how the GAO is using GIS to analyze geographic data in meaningful ways.

 

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GAO WatchBlog ReBlog: Exploring alternatives to prison

While these alternatives may be less expensive than imprisonment, we found that DOJ wasn’t measuring outcomes as well as it could. For example, DOJ surveyed U.S. Attorneys in 2014 and 2015 to get information about the use of certain pretrial diversion practices—but didn’t collect data on outcomes or costs.

And it’s those outcomes—such as successful reentry into society and reduced recidivism (relapse into criminal behavior)—that could be key in reducing the federal prison population.

Read more about the GAO’s analysis of alternatives to prison here.

 

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GAO WatchBlog ReBlog: The cost of maintaining legacy IT systems

The federal government invests more than $80 billion annually on IT. Much of this money is spent operating and maintaining legacy IT systems—some of which are decades old. Is this the best use of federal IT dollars? And what are the risks of running these aging systems?

Find out more at the GAO WatchBlog post Legacy IT Systems (podcast) — WatchBlog: Official Blog of the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

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GAO WatchBlog Reblog: Strengthening the Federal Workforce (and Public Service Recognition Week!)

 

The first week of May is Public Service Recognition Week, honoring the people who serve the country—and the public. It’s also a time for us to examine federal agencies and the Office of Personnel Management’s efforts to hire, develop, and retain skilled employees. Read on for what we’ve learned since last May…

 

via Strengthening the Federal Workforce — WatchBlog: Official Blog of the U.S. Government Accountability Office

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