- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2007

When it comes to their privacy, Americans still find the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration the least trustworthy of all federal agencies, but that level of trust has risen compared with last year, a recent survey finds.

The TSA was viewed trustworthy when it comes to privacy by 25 percent of respondents, up 6 percent from 2006. Homeland Security finished dead last — 22 percent — coming in 5 percent from the previous year.

TSA spokeswoman Amy Kudwa declined to comment specifically about the ranking, saying only that the agency “is fully committed to privacy in the implementation of our security mission, as our relationship with the traveling public is one of our most fundamental assets.”

Former Homeland Security Chief Privacy Officer Maureen Cooney said that department’s transparency on the issue of privacy was probably the most important single factor in any explanation of the change.

“The public appreciates a department that says, ‘We meant well, we made a mistake,’ ” she said. “By being honest about our progress [on privacy] we build confidence in the role of the privacy office.”

For the third consecutive year, the U.S. Postal Service was the government agency Americans most trusted to guard their privacy, followed by the Federal Trade Commission, the Bureau of Consumer Protection, the National Institutes of Health and the Census Bureau, respectively.

The survey, conducted via mail and e-mail by the Michigan-based Ponemon Institute, sampled the views of more than 7,000 Americans. It is the third annual survey conducted by the organization, a think tank “dedicated to independent research and education that advances responsible information and privacy management practices within business and government,” according to its Web site.

Among the other agencies least trusted by Americans on matters of privacy are the National Security Agency, the CIA, the Office of the U.S. Attorney General, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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