Privacy backers size up new chief

Monday, 5 May 2003, 3:51 PM EST

An excellent choice or a "devilishly clever" diversionary tactic? The jury is still out over the appointment last week of Nuala O'Connor Kelly as the chief privacy officer of the Department of Homeland Security.

O'Connor Kelly, a 34-year-old lawyer who describes herself as "truly a geek at heart," is best known in privacy-activist circles as part of the team that Internet advertising firm DoubleClick hauled in to clean house when the company was being besieged by complaints about its privacy policies -- or lack thereof.

At DHS, she will be responsible for developing and enforcing privacy policies, and will oversee aspects of highly controversial programs such as the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System II, known as CAPPS II, and the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness program. O'Connor Kelly declined requests to be interviewed for this story.

Privacy proponents are divided over whether O'Connor Kelly will be a glorified public relations flack or a true privacy advocate. Whether she actually cleaned up DoubleClick or simply hid the garbage away from public view is still in contention.

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