The Gator Guarding the Hen House

The Department of Homeland Security has set up a committee to advise them on privacy issues. In theory this seems like a great idea. But the DHS has installed representatives from Cendant, SAIC and Claria on the privacy board.

This is the equivalent of putting Armstrong Williams on a federal advisory board for media ethics.

Cendant owns Galileo, a computer reservation system for airline travel. According to the Transportation Security Administration, Galileo “shared private information about their passengers” with the governement without their customer’s consent. The records included the travelers’ “name, address, phone number, e-mail address, credit card number and other personal details.”

SAIC is a major government contractor. Last month, a break-in at SAIC headquarters in San Deigo netted thieves “computers containing the Social Security numbers and other personal information about tens of thousands of past and present company employees.” Former weapons inspector David Kay — whose information was compromised because he used to work at SAIC — said, “I just find it unexplainable how anyone could be so casual with such vital information. It’s not like we’re just now learning that identity theft is a problem”

Claria is the internet advertising company formerly known as Gator. The company changed it’s name after being subject to criticism for having policies “not friendly to people who want reasonable levels of privacy.” The company was also sued “by The New York Times, The Washington Post and other media companies for installing unauthorized pop-up ads on their Web sites.”

Sounds like just the kind of folks we need advising the government on privacy issues.