The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA, is the Federal research agency charged with maintaining the technological superiority of the U.S. military and preventing technological surprise from harming our national security. Past DARPA investments have led to revolutionary advances such as the Internet, the global positioning satellite (GPS) system, and stealth aircraft.
But working at the technology and security frontiers can lead to an inherent tension between the value of having access to information and the importance of respecting personal privacy. To address that tension, DARPA recently released a thoughtful set of Privacy Principles to help ensure that any future research and development programs that raise privacy issues are designed and implemented in a responsible and ethical fashion.
As one expression of those principles, DARPA resolves, among other things, to consistently examine the impact of its research and development programs on privacy. And it commits to analyze the privacy dimension of its ongoing research endeavors with respect to their ethical, legal and societal implications.
DARPA has also outlined a number of specific steps already launched in areas such as research, internal controls, and independent review. It will:
It is critical that we maintain our privacy and civil liberties in the digital age, and I am delighted to see DARPA’s leadership take this issue so seriously.
Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy