Government Data Mining: The Need for a Legal Framework

Privacy and Security

Article Snapshot


Fred H. Cate


Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, Vol. 43, No. 2, pp. 435-489, 2008


The author explores the vast shortcomings of the law surrounding data mining and calls for Congressional action.

Policy Relevance

The law surrounding data privacy and security is severely outdated and in sore need of Congressional update. A new regulatory scheme is necessary in order to keep American citizens secure and to protect their privacy.

Main Points

  • The 1976 Supreme Court decision United States v. Miller decided that there is no Fourth Amendment protection from government access to data held by third parties.
  • Since 9/11 Congress and the President have extended the ability of the government to collect personal data through various means. This data is used for numerous data mining purposes.
  • There has been a general failure of the law and legal system to respond to the growing use of data mining and what it is capable of with the powers of modern technology.
  • The government’s ability to take data from third parties is essentially unregulated. Coupled with concerns about terrorism, the government has the ability and motivation to search data even of those who have done no wrong.
  • Congressional action is needed to provide adequate privacy and security where the law is currently extremely inadequate.
  • Necessary requirements for a possible future legal scheme are suggested in order to address the dearth of current regulation and guidance.


Get The Article

Find the full article online

Search for Full Article