The federal government provides substantial protection of personal information in official files and maintains a "do not call" list, but overall it offers few safeguards for private data. Federal laws do not shield medical and library records and give only partial protection to financial records. The passage of antiterrorism laws in 2001 permitted more intrusive electronic surveillance. Although Congress has considered ways to guard Social Security numbers since 1991, it has failed to enact legislation.
Two reasons account for the federal failures, according to Robert Ellis Smith, publisher of the monthly newsletter Privacy Journal. First, members of Congress accept donations from corporations whose interests often do not coincide with those of average citizens. Second, federal laws include a multitude of exceptions demanded by a variety of special interests, with the result that the laws are more complicated and less favorable to consumers.
This article was originally published with the title Thwarting Big Brother.