The Challenge of Data Sharing:

Results of a GAO-Sponsored Symposium on Benefit and Loan Programs

GAO-01-67: Published: Oct 20, 2000. Publicly Released: Oct 20, 2000.

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Data sharing among federal agencies that run federal benefit and loan programs is important for determining the eligibility of applicants and beneficiaries. A GAO symposium on data sharing highlighted various issues facing federal agencies in their efforts to prevent abuse of federal programs. Symposium speakers focused on the number of program dollars saved by interagency data exchanges. Agencies using computer matching have detected undisclosed income and welfare recipients who receive benefits from more than one state. Improved technologies offer agencies the opportunity to expand their data sharing efforts. Such technologies include computer systems that can communicate directly with other systems and computer networks that can obtain information directly from financial institutions. Symposium speakers agreed that applicants' privacy should be protected when personal information is shared among agencies, but they disagreed about the extent to which data sharing threatens it. Privacy laws and security-related technology provide individuals with some protection against the possible misuse of personal information, but symposium participants differed on whether these protections are adequate.

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