Sharing Data While Protecting Privacy

December 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

The thoughtful use of accurate and reliable data plays a critical role in key Administration initiatives to increase transparency and efficiency of federal programs. When information is shared between agencies, it allows the government to achieve better outcomes for the American public through more accurate evaluation of policy options, improved stewardship of taxpayer dollars, reduced paperwork burdens, and more coordinated delivery of public services. In a November 3, 2010 Memorandum, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) encourages agencies to “seek new approaches for identifying and sharing high-value data responsibly and appropriately.” The purpose of the Sharing Data While Protecting Privacy Memorandum (M-11-02) is to direct agencies to find solutions that allow data sharing to move forward in a manner that complies with applicable privacy laws, regulations, and policies.

In the Memorandum, OMB reminds agencies that while sharing data is encouraged and beneficial, it also must be done in a way that fully protects individual privacy. Hence, agency data sharing must comply with the Privacy Act of 1974 and other applicable privacy, laws, regulations, and policies. OMB advises agencies to consult established codes of Fair Information Practices in addition to the exiting legal framework.

Increasing data sharing across the government can help the government serve the public with programs that reflect the highest degree of efficiency, coordination, and accountability. Potential benefits of data sharing include the following:

  • Timely and improved access to reliable and high-quality data to inform decision-making
  • Increased transparency, better service, and reduced risk of waste, fraud, and abuse
  • More informed research on public policy
  • Improved government efficiency and reduced paperwork burdens

OMB encourages agencies to engage in coordinated efforts to share high-value data to help support Administration initiatives such as the Do Not Pay List, Evaluation Initiative, Statistics Initiative, and Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation. Agencies efforts should include:

  • Identifying high-value data that would promote effective and efficient decision-making
  • Identifying high-value data and data sharing methodologies that would promote more efficient delivery of federal, state, and local benefits with lower error rates
  • Developing effective approaches for properly sharing data with other federal entities
  • Ensuring the use of common data standards to promote greater interoperability across systems and improving data sharing of data as part of IT modernization initiatives
  • Following Enterprise Architecture guidance and principles consistent with appropriate OMB guidance and best practices for new and on-going systems development and implementation

OMB is available to assist agencies as they evaluate proposals for data sharing activities and take the necessary steps for ensuring that data sharing activities comply with applicable laws, regulations, and policies. Agencies may be asked by OMB to perform an evaluation and submit a written report detailing options for authorized data sharing. Agencies with questions about the Sharing Data While Protecting Privacy Memorandum or data sharing should contact OMB at datause@omb.eop.gov.

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