FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Heather Handyside
September 16, 2014 (907) 350-4846
Begich Recognized for Commitment to Privacy Rights, Welcomes FEMA Privacy Reform
U.S. Senator Mark Begich today welcomed news that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), at his urging, has implemented commonsense reforms to increase transparency and protect the privacy of disaster survivors. The change comes just weeks after the release of a report by Begich’s subcommittee that made recommendations to improve performance and save more than $1 billion at FEMA.
Begich, a strong supporter of privacy rights, took issue with FEMA’s newly implemented information-sharing policy. After a disaster, survivors must fill out numerous forms in order to be eligible for assistance. While the forms are primarily used by FEMA to determine appropriate aid amounts, information is shared with third-party organizations to make sure recovery efforts are coordinated. Previously, survivors were not informed how their information would be shared with other entities, such as private organizations.
“While it’s important we promote efficiency throughout the government, Alaskans trying to recover from disasters have the right to know who has access to their sensitive information and that it is being properly safeguarded,” said Begich. “I’m glad FEMA took this first step and updated its form to disclose how and when personal data might be shared. I hope they’ll continue to implement my subcommittee’s reforms, which will save taxpayers’ money and improve performance.”
While the recent change is welcome, Begich will continue to pressure FEMA to ensure their personal information is being kept secure. Survivors should not have to give up their right to privacy in order to receive assistance following a disaster.
Earlier this year, Begich was recognized by leading privacy and civil liberties groups for his commitment to protecting privacy rights, receiving an “A” on their congressional scorecard. The coalition, called Stand Against Spying, includes organizations from across the ideological spectrum, from FreedomWorks to Demand Progress, and top tech groups like Reddit. The scorecard, rating elected officials with grades from “A” through “F,” reflects whether members of Congress have voted for or sponsored bills that protect Americans’ privacy rights. Senator Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young also received “A” grades.
As Chair of the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Management, Begich works to assure the agency utilizes efficient and effective business practices when supporting states, tribes, and local governments as they respond to and recover from disasters.