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Miss Parsons. Of the requests we have had, about half have come from Members of the Congress and their staffs and the rest are members of the general public.
Counsel tells me that the Wiretap Commission recently published its hearings.
Ms. Abzug. Would you please supply for the record what commissions have published their hearings, if you have that.
Mr. PLESSER. Within 2 years?
During the June 9, 1976 Subcommittee hearing on the Privacy Commission's request for amendment of its authorizing legislation, you asked me to supply for the record the names of other independent commissions whose hearing transcripts have been published.
Upon consultation with the Library of Congress, the Privacy Commission staff was told that in the last ten years it has been unusual for independent Commissions to publish the transcripts of their hearings, largely because the material that would thereby have been available was not deemed of sufficient Congressional or public interest. Notable exceptions have been the National Commission for the Review of Federal and State Laws Relating to Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance and the U.S. Commission on Population Growth and the American Future. The former recently published two volumes of hearing testimony totalling 1664 pages; the latter published a portion of its hearing record in 1972.
The rationale for publishing the hearing transcripts of the Privacy Protection Study Commission lies in their uniqueness --the insurance and medical records hearings being but two examples, in the wide interest the hearings have generated, and in the expressed hope of the Congressional sponsors of the Privacy Act of 1974 that the Commission will be able to "assist the Executive Branch and the Congress. .as well as representatives of State and local government and the private sector
who are attempting to deal with this important problem." (Cong. Rec., December 17, 1974, p. 521816; December 18, 1974, p. H12243).
I trust that you will consider this information responsive to your inquiry and thank you again for your attention to the Commission's work.
cor Carole W. Parsons Executive Director
Mr. Eric L. Hirschhorn
Mr. Linowes. The hearings which we are conducting now probing the private sector to my knowledge is the first time such an investigation has been undertaken. We feel the record we are developing can be extremely valuable, not just for this Commission but to Congress as well. That is one of the reasons we would like to urge they be published.
Ms. ABZUG. How much will that cost?
Miss PARSONS. Our estimate of the cost of editing and printing the hearing transcripts for six of the Commission's hearings is approximately $116,000.
Ms. ABZUG. What are the five background studies you say you have made? What are the background studies which your Commission is planning to engage in?
Mr. LINOWES. The five to which you refer are in the trend assessments program—where will technology be in the next 10 years, and what will the society's privacy expectations be? They are in those general areas, and constitute the smallest portion of our budget.
Ms. Abzug. In which of the studies do you contemplate covering the question of the general collection of data? One of our major problems in the privacy area is that we do not deal with the problem until after data has been collected.
What if anything, is your Commission doing in that particular area?
Mr. LINOWES. Madam Chairwoman, that gets to the very substance of the overall investigations which cut across most of our subject areas. We probe it with each industry group and in each hearing.
We know we must be consistent in any findings we come up with. Limiting the collection of data is one of the most important safeguards we can recommend. We are aware of that. If you do not have it, we have no problem. Destruction of data after it has served its purpose is a very, very important and simple safeguard.
Therefore, we are digging in depth into these precise points with each of our investigations which will culminate in our final report and recommendations hopefully covering the entire scope of the problem.
Ms. ABZUG. Have there been any requests by Federal agencies for assistance in complying with the substantive requirements of the Privacy Act? Have you been asked to render any kind of assistance and, if so, by what agencies?
Mr. Linowes. Madam Chairwoman, as you know, OMB is charged with interpreting the Privacy Act. We have a peripheral sort of charge built into the act, never too clearly identified.
I know there have been informal discussions and overtures made
Perhaps our Executive Director can answer more specifically if that is the nature of response you prefer.
Miss PARSONS. We have had some informal inquiries. You asked who in particular. Early, when we were first getting started, we had a request from HEW for advice on certain provisions of the act. I will say quite frankly that we have not felt ourselves in a position to render any advice on the interpretation of the act, in part because we are not yet far enough along in our assessment of agency implementation of the act.
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Mr. LINOWEs. Perhaps I should add there, Madam Chairwoman, that we have staff assigned to look into the implementation of the act. We view that as part of our mandate. Our mandate is so tremendously broad, and that is one of the facets, and it has been singled out for study. However, we have nothing of significance to report at this time.
Mr. PLESSER. Throughout the course of our activity we have met with Federal agencies to try to understand how they are implementing the act. Whenever you get into that kind of discussion, they always ask questions back as to what the Privacy Act means and our interpretation of it.
What Miss Parsons was saying is that we have had many informal discussions with Government agencies, discussing some of the problems of interpretation of the Privacy Act.
We have not issued any formal opinions of the Commission in relation to those discussions, however.
Ms. Abzug. Have you issued any reports as yet?
Mr. LINOWES. This is an opportune time for the question. We are issuing our first report on the Internal Revenue Service. That will be issued later today.
We have some embargoed copies available presently.
Our annual report, which is also required by the act, will be submitted within the next day or two to the Congress and the President. That is the extent thus far of formal reports.
We have made available at different times, and to your staff as well, summaries of our credit card hearings and the types of things that are presently in-house.
As you know, this type of function is a research function and is the type of thing where the product comes out at the end. As we complete these units, such as on Internal Revenue Service, we come forward with them.
Ms. Abzug. How much did that report cost to get out?
Mr. Higgs. Printing costs or cost of research that went into it? Are you talking about just printing the report or total cost?
Ms. ABZUG. The total cost.
Mr. Higgs. The average is about $33,000 per project. That is what they average. That includes staff, hearing cost, support cost, preparation of the report, printing of the final report, and so on.
Ms. ABZUG. How many of those do you plan to get out?
Mr. LINOWES. The act specifically asks us to render recommendations on certain items, one of which is the Internal Revenue Service; further, we have the mailing list industry.
Frankly, the funding problem is one of our major concerns and it is the reason I am afraid I cannot be much more specific. If we knew just what our funding would be, we could be more direct in identifying other specific areas for particular coverage. We
e are fully aware of the need to transmit the results of our deliberations to Congress and the President as early as possible. We feel this function in which we are engaged is one which requires and deserves prompt attention.
Ms. Abzug. What are you doing with respect to analyzing the relationship between the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act?