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Attorney General Wants Better Data Protection For Vermonters

Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan speaking on election night in 2016.
Oliver Parini
VPR File
TJ Donovan will ask lawmakers to support a new Chief Privacy Officer to oversee data privacy policies in Vermont.

Vermont’s Attorney General says the state should step up its role to protect data privacy.In a report issued to lawmakers the AG’s office said Vermont should do a statewide audit to learn more about what happens to people’s data once it is handed over to state agencies.

“I think we have to have an honest conversation about what the state does with Vermonters’ data, because it is being collected,” said Attorney General TJ Donovan. “And I’m not sure we even know what different agencies are doing with it.”

Donovan also wants to designate a Chief Privacy Officer to ensure the state complies with privacy protections, and provide education and outreach to help people better protect themselves.

The report finds the federal government has been slow to respond to data privacy concerns.
California and the European Union have passed stricter data collection rules and Donovan wants Vermont to catch up with the quickly emerging technologies.

“I think privacy and protecting people’s data are the biggest consumer protection issues in this state and in this country,” Donovan said. “The world is rapidly changing and I think we need to take a step back and make sure we are following the best practices about how the state operates when it comes to privacy and data collection and retention.”

"I think we have to have an honest conversation about what the state does with Vermonters' data, because it is being collected. And I'm not sure we even know what different agencies are doing with it."- TJ Donovan, Vermont Attorney General

Donovan says he is especially concerned with data that is collected from children.

He says parents absolutely have a right to understand what happens to the data that is collected from children working on computers at school and at home.

At least seven states also have a student online protection law.

The AG’s office says it’s received hundreds of complaints of data breaches from Vermonters, and the report recommends a series of immediate and long range actions to tackle the issue.

Vermont last year passed a Data Broker Registration Act and a Data Broker Data Security Act, but Donovan says the state needs to do more to make sure private information is protected and that people understand what happens with their personal data when it is recorded.


Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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