Defending the privacy rights of all Americans

"Without strong privacy oversight, I fear that key privacy safeguards will fall through the cracks and Americans' personal information will remain at risk.  Furthermore, I believe that the framework for protecting privacy in the Federal government needs to be updated and loopholes closed." 

Senator Akaka is a leader in defending the privacy rights of the people of Hawaii and all Americans.  Senator Akaka values the strong cultural and legal protections for privacy in Hawaii, where the right to privacy is enshrined in the State Constitution.  He is committed to upholding these values in Hawaii and strives to hold the Federal government to the same high standards throughout the country. 

Senator Akaka will continue to investigate activities in the Federal government that infringe on personal privacy rights, including data mining, identification security, health information technology, and government data breaches.


As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Senate Akaka is examining privacy-related laws and rules, including the Privacy Act, to ensure they fully protect the privacy rights and civil liberties of all Americans.  His oversight work will focus on enforcing existing protections, while strengthening aspects of the law that may be outdated.

Recent Accomplishments and Activities

Senator Akaka's current work builds on a legacy of dedication to privacy oversight.  At Senator Akaka's urging, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs  held a hearing on June 18, 2008 to review whether the Privacy Act of 1974 adequately protects Americans' personal information in an electronic age.  At that hearing, the Government Accountability Office discussed a report that Senator Akaka had requested, which discovered gaps in privacy protections.  That hearing made clear the need to update the Act.  Since that time, Senator Akaka has been conducting an in depth review of the Privacy Act, including consulting a wide variety of stakeholders on Privacy Act reforms.

Because of his belief that a strong Privacy Officer is needed to oversee compliance with federal privacy laws, Senator Akaka introduced the Privacy Officer With Enhanced Rights (POWER) Act of 2007 (S. 332).  He successfully pushed for its inclusion in the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-53).  This bill strengthens the investigatory powers of the Chief Privacy Officer at the Department of Homeland Security to ensure this growing department makes privacy a priority.

Senator Akaka has led Congressional efforts to examine the privacy implications of REAL ID, which mandates every state adopt national standards for issuing driver's licenses and identification, while establishing linked government databases to store Americans' personal information.  He believes REAL ID places the personally identifiable information of every American at risk, and poses significant implementation problems for state governments.  In response to these concerns, Senator Akaka sponsored legislation, the Providing for Additional Security in States' Identification (PASS ID) Act of 2009 (S.1261), which would repeal REAL ID and replace it with a more workable solution for States that incorporates greater privacy safeguards.  The Department of Homeland Security and the National Governors Association strongly support replacing REAL ID with Senator Akaka's commonsense, bipartisan legislation, PASS ID.  In her July 15, 2009 testimony before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Secretary Napolitano stated, "PASS ID is a critical piece of national security legislation that will fix the REAL ID Act of 2005 and institute strong security standards for government-issued identification ." 

As senior member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Senator Akaka recognizes terrorists not only seek to inflict physical harm to our Nation and its people, but also are committed to attacking the core of America: our principles and ideals embodied in our Constitution.  Senator Akaka will continue to defend our Nation by strongly advocating a comprehensive counterterrorism approach that defends Americans' values and the civil liberties.  After reviewing evidence that the previous Administration abused the PATRIOT Act, Senator Akaka voted against its reauthorization in 2005 because it failed to contain meaningful checks on the government's authority to spy on Americans.  Instead, Senator Akaka supported and cosponsored the Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act of 2009 (S.1686), which would place important checks on the PATRIOT Act, reduce the use of national security letters, and ensure that privacy and civil liberties rights are protected.  For similar reasons, Senator Akaka voted against changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that would have authorized our intelligence services to conduct warrantless wiretaps on Americans. 

Recently, Senator Akaka cosponsored the Security Screening Confidential Data Privacy Act (S. 4037), which would place limits on the Transportation Security Administration's use of whole-body imaging.  He also cosponsored the Travelers' Privacy Protection Act of 2008 (S. 3176), which would place limits on the government's authority to search and seize laptops and electronic devices at border crossings and provide protection for personal information on electronic equipment searched or seized.

As Chairman of the Committee on Veteran Affairs, Senator Akaka led efforts in Congress to deter careless and irresponsible handling of protected personal information after the loss of laptops at the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2006.  He has continued to seek more accountability and oversight by agencies for the security of Americans' personal information and individually identifiable health information. 

Additional Information

Senator Akaka has asked for several Government Accountability Office reports to assist in oversight and legislation regarding privacy-related issues:

PRIVACY:  OPM Should Better Monitor Implementation of Privacy-Related Policies and Procedures for Background Investigations; LINK

PRIVACY:  Alternatives Exist for Enhancing Protection of Personally Identifiable Information; LINK

PRIVACY:  Agencies Should Ensure That Designated Senior Officials Have Oversight of Key Functions; LINK

HEALTH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY:  Early Efforts Initiated but Comprehensive Privacy Approach Needed for National Strategy; LINK

HEALTH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY:  HHS Has Taken Important Steps to Address Privacy Principles and Challenges, Although More Work Remains; LINK

DATA MINING:  Federal Efforts Cover a Wide Range of Uses; LINK

DATA MINING:  Agencies Have Taken Key Steps to Protect Privacy in Selected Efforts, but Significant Compliance Issues Remain; LINK

Constituent Services

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Fax: (202) 224-2126


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Fax: (808) 935-9064