I’d like to share an article posted on Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter about the U.S government’s national strategy for information sharing and the potential  threat to genealogists.

Dick Eastman says:

I spent some time this morning reading through a new document released by the White House yesterday. The National Strategy for Information Sharing and Safeguarding (or NSISS) outlines how the government will attempt to responsibly share and protect data that enhances national security and protects the American people.

The national strategy will define how the federal government and its assorted departments and agencies share their data. Agencies can also share services and work towards data and network interoperability to be more efficient, the President said.

The President aimed to address concerns over Privacy by noting, ‘This strategy makes it clear that the individual privacy, civil rights and civil liberties of United States persons must be — and will be — protected.’ The full document is available in PDF format from the White House website at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/2012sharingstrategy_1.pdf.

Indeed, protecting privacy of individuals and protecting information that would help our enemies create damage are two very important goals. However, simply locking up information typically does not achieve either of those goals. Instead, such knee-jerk reactions usually only place impediments in the path of those who have legitimate needs for the information.

The strategy has five goals to accomplish: collective action through collaboration and accountability, a set of common standards to improve information discovery, optimize effectiveness by sharing services, define new policies and processes to protect data, and protect user privacy and civil rights.

The language of the National Strategy for Information Sharing and Safeguarding is all very positive and upbeat, describing methods of sharing information by implementing very complex controls and standards. Pardon me while I remain doubtful that adding an additional layer of government controls will benefit anyone.

Unfortunately, the document is long on fancy rhetoric and short on practical, hands-on implementation procedures.

My fear is that all government agencies will use this document as an excuse for restricting access to all sorts of documents, whether such restrictions make sense or not. The common excuse in the near future may be, “That doesn’t conform to the NSISS.”

If this happens, genealogists will be blocked from legitimate information they seek. So will businesses, urban planners, law enforcement personnel, and many, many others.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

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