After the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) requested approval to collect additional data on federal government employees, a privacy watchdog group urged the OPM to limit its data collection until it can securely protect its data.
“Federal agencies are incapable of adequately protecting sensitive information from improper disclosure,” said the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), in comments filed with the OPM. EPIC cited a report from the GAO, which said because widespread cybersecurity weaknesses at federal agencies federal systems and personal public information is at increased risk from cyber attacks.
EPIC went on to mention a 2015 data breach of the OPM, where the information on 21.5 million people, including 19.7 million background check applicants, was stolen from OPM background investigation databases. In 2014, the personal information of 80,000 people was exposed in a data breach of the U.S. Postal Service, EPIC added.
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EPIC is particularly concerned with an OPM request to collect non-criminal court information “unrelated to employment eligibility” of an applicant, which could include child custody disputes, divorce proceedings and domestic abuse cases.
EPIC also objected to the OPM’s request to collect information about social media activity and use of drugs illegal under federal law, even if the drug is legal in an applicant’s state.
The information requested by the OPM would only be required for applicants applying for “public trust positions” that involve carrying firearms, which include filling out SF 85P and SF 85P-S. The data from SF 85P forms was compromised during the breach of OPM last year.
With the SF 85P Forms, OPM already collects a “wealth of sensitive, personal information about current and prospective employees of the Federal government, as well as their family members and friends,” EPIC said. OPM collects the applicant’s full name, contact information, citizenship, biometric data, Social Security number, previous places of residence, educational history, past employment activities, medical information, foreign travel, drug use, and financial records. It also collects “extensive personal information” about the applicant’s spouse, including Social Security number.