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Omnibus bill orders agencies to appoint chief privacy officers

Measure in omnibus would require agencies to hire chief privacy officers.

The omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2005 includes privacy provisions crafted to prevent the unlawful transfer of or access to confidential information.

The language, which would prohibit federal agencies from monitoring individuals' Internet use, is included in the part of the bill, H.R. 4818, that would fund the Transportation and Treasury departments. That section also would fund independent agencies and general government appropriations.

The government cannot collect information about Web users unless that information does not identify specific people or those people give their permission. Exceptions would be made for law enforcement requests and "system security" incidents required to protect agency networks.

The bill also would require that each government entity hire chief privacy officers to oversee system privacy, ensure that any data collection is legal and secure, and evaluate the disclosure of personal information by the government. To ensure that agencies are complying with the provisions, the measure would require each agency's inspector general to hire consultants to evaluate the agencies' use of identifiable information and its data-protection procedures.

The measure also would provide funding to modernize information technology infrastructure. The Treasury Department could spend a maximum of $3 million on its IT modernization plan, while the Internal Revenue Service would get $205 million to acquire IT systems, pending the House and Senate Appropriations committees' approval.

The Executive Office of the President, meanwhile, would receive about $12 million for IT modernization, but $4 million would not be released until the office submits a plan that is approved by White House Office of Management and Budget, Government Accountability Office and appropriations committees.

Lawmakers also appropriated $42 million for the Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center, $24 million of which would be used to continue the program that transfers technologies developed with federal funds to state and local communities.

Meanwhile, the Election Assistance Commission would receive $14 million to implement the 2002 election overhaul, which included language on e-voting. Of that sum, $2.8 million would go to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Overall, the Transportation and Treasury departments' share of the spending bill includes some $59 million for advanced technology development, an increase over the $42 million suggested by the House and $57 million offered by the Senate. The bill calls for $1.5 million worth of appliance-based computer-security technology, $400,000 for technology frameworks and $500,000 for certificate-based Internet security. The bill also calls on the departments not to exceed $2.5 million on their e-government initiatives.

The bill would allocate $1.5 million for vertical flight technology, $4 million for "phased array" radar technology and $3 million for anti-jamming technology for global positioning systems. It also would appropriate $8 million for research and technology program support, including $250,000 for the Transportation Research Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology and $1.5 million for the Oklahoma Transportation Center.

The bill also would waive "Buy America" provisions requiring federal IT purchases to include U.S.-made content, and it would allow the Federal Railroad Administration to reimburse employees for home Internet connections.