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Further Enhancing the Federal Government’s Privacy Practices

Today the Office of Management and Budget is releasing updated guidance on the role and designation of Senior Agency Officials for Privacy.

The digital economy has transformed how citizens interact with their Government. Government services related to immigration, student loans, health insurance, and veterans’ benefits are just a sample of the services now available online. By leveraging technology and innovation, the Administration is significantly improving the Federal Government’s ability to provide better citizen-centered services and helping Americans engage with their Government in new and meaningful ways. At the same time, we’re working to ensure that the Government’s privacy practices evolve to appropriately reflect the Government’s use of these ever-changing technologies, while also maintaining America’s position as a leader in innovation.

As a part of these continued efforts, today the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is releasing updated guidance on the role and designation of Senior Agency Officials for Privacy (SAOPs)—leaders who have agency-wide responsibility and accountability for the agency’s privacy program. Last issued over a decade ago, the revised guidance updates the role and responsibilities of SAOPs in light of recent innovations in technology and advancements in information analytics so that agencies are better positioned to address the new and complex challenges of the information age.

Specifically, the updated guidance:

  • Requires the head of each agency to assess the management, structure, and operation of the agency’s privacy program, and, if necessary, designate or re-designate an official to serve as the SAOP;
  • Makes clear that the SAOP must serve in a central leadership position and have the necessary authority and expertise to lead the agency’s privacy program and carry out all privacy-related functions; and
  • Requires the SAOP to take a central role at the agency in policy development and evaluation, privacy compliance, and privacy risk management.

The guidance released today recognizes that the success of an agency’s privacy program depends upon its leadership. Further, the guidance joins a growing list of actions this Administration has taken to support the Federal Government’s protection of privacy, such as issuing the updated Circular A-130 to help ensure that agencies take a coordinated approach to addressing privacy and information security and establishing a Federal Privacy Council to coordinate and share ideas, best practices, and successful approaches for protecting privacy across the Government.

As President Obama has stated, privacy has been at the heart of our democracy from its inception, and we need it now more than ever.  Moving forward, we’ll continue to work with our agency partners to reinforce the Administration’s commitment to enhancing the Government’s privacy practices and delivering on the actions outlined in Executive Order 13719.

Marc Groman is the Senior Advisor for Privacy at the Office of Management and Budget.