If the past is any predictor of the future, President Obama’s likely nominee for czar is no friend of privacy, according to Ryan Singel of Threat Level. Singel reports that former Republican Congressman Tom Davis voted repeatedly to expand the government’s internet wiretapping powers and helped author the REAL ID law that has been rejected by many states.
“Given his role in REAL ID, Tom Davis would not be a good choice for privacy, which is something that President Obama specifically promised to protect in his remarks on the cyber security strategy,” says Jim Harper, the director of information policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. “Many cyber security planners refer obliquely to ‘authentication’ and ‘identity management’ programs that would devastate privacy, anonymity and civil liberties. Davis would probably work to roll past these issues rather than solve them.”
Davis’ record on privacy issues has not been uniformly poor, however. EPIC.org’s Marc Rotenberg thought him a “good pick.”
Although Davis “voted consistently to give the government wide latitude to wiretap the internet and spy on Americans’ communications,” a record that pits him against privacy advocates, his record also includes introducing data protection legislation while in the House. In 2007, he introduced The Federal Agency Data Breach Protection Act, which would have required the federal government to do a better job of protecting personal information and would have required them to notify individuals of a breach. In 2008, he raised concerns about a proposal in President Bush’s budget that would require some internet businesses to collect Social Security numbers on their customers and share it with the IRS. Davis’ concerns were not just for the impact on e-commerce, but also for the security of SSN provided to e-commerce sites.
Update of 6-24-09: It all may be moot as Davis says he doesn’t want the job.