Question for new 'privacy czar': What should you know about us?

| 4/18/2003

The former privacy officer of Web advertising company DoubleClick will be the Department of Homeland Security's first privacy czar, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced April 16.

Nuala O'Connor Kelly, 34, will oversee programs that involve collecting and using U.S. citizens' personal information. She's expected to be involved in background check regulations affecting truckers, particularly hazmat drivers. She currently serves as a Commerce Department attorney.

O'Connor Kelly joined DoubleClick in February 2000 after the Federal Trade Commission began to investigate complaints that the company was improperly storing and sharing private user data. DoubleClick also was the subject of similar investigations by 12 state attorneys general and several class-action lawsuits.

DoubleClick settled most of those lawsuits and created a division specializing in privacy compliance, which O'Connor Kelly ran.

At DHS, O'Connor Kelley will be responsible for privacy protection issues that arise under the controversial CAPPS II proposal, a Transportation Security Administration plan to create an electronic passenger-screening network to examine the background of anyone who makes an airline reservation.

Meanwhile, other federal efforts to gain more information about citizens have been criticized. The Department of Defense's "Total Information Awareness" program would have created a database of consumer financial transactions combined with other publicly available data.

Congress said it would suspend project funding unless the administration could demonstrate that it would not violate constitutional privacy rights. A White House report on the issue is due next month.