n. (also Privacy Act)legislation establishing a code of fair information practices that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of information about individuals maintained in systems of records by federal agenciesPrivacy Act of 1974Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the “Privacy Act of 1974”.Hoff-Wilson 1983, 443–444Has active support by historical associations of such statutes as the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts inadvertently contributed to greater sanitizing or actual destruction of documents not only by bureaucrats who produce them but also by archivists and historians inside government who process them in anticipation that they will some day be declassified for research? At a meeting in July 1982 of the Society for History in the Federal Government, Allen Weinstein, professor of history at George Washington University and executive editor of the Washington Quarterly, and Alfred Goldberg, chief historian in the office of the Secretary of Defense, both suggested that there is potential conflict of interest or allegiance among federal historians, because of their dual roles as guardians of documents and assistants to researchers.Behrnd-Klodt and Wosh 2005, 7Most public legislation, such as the FOIA, the Privacy Act, the USA PATRIOT Act, and open records laws, primarily affect access to government records that are held in agencies and repositories.Behrnd-Klodt and Wosh 2005, 277The Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, was enacted in 1975 after the Watergate scandal, to promote respect for citizens’ privacy by establishing guidelines for federal agencies’ use and disclosure of personal files.US DHS 2008, 2The backdrop surrounding the HEW (U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare) report and the Privacy Act included several years of intense Congressional hearings examining the surveillance activities of the Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover era and the post-Watergate support for government reform. Flowing from the numerous abuses of power uncovered by Congress and the media during the early 1970’s, the Privacy Act set out a comprehensive regime limiting the collection, use, and dissemination of personal information held by government agencies. The Privacy Act also established penalties for improper disclosure of personal information and gave individuals the right to gain access to their personal information held by Federal agencies.McCallister, Grance, and Scarfone 2010, B-2For Federal government agencies, the need to protect PII was first established by the Privacy Act of 1974. It required Federal agencies to protect PII and apply the Fair Information Practices to PII. Also, the Privacy Act required agencies to establish appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to ensure the security and confidentiality of records and to protect against any anticipated threats or hazards to their security or integrity which could result in substantial harm, embarrassment, inconvenience, or unfairness to any individual on whom information is maintained.Yaco 2010, 644The federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows agencies to make a subjective choice about disclosure of the records of the deceased, “as a general rule, under the Privacy Act, privacy rights are extinguished at death. However, under FOIA, it is entirely appropriate to consider the privacy interests of a decedent’s survivors.”Behrnd-Klodt 2015, 7The Privacy Act protects personal information in a “record” kept in an agency’s “system of records,” defined as any group of records under agency control and housed, indexed, or otherwise retrievable by use of an individual’s name or other identifier. A “record” is “any item, collection, or grouping of information about an individual maintained by an agency. Information that is not indexed or retrievable is not considered a record and is not subject to the Privacy Act’s protections. An “individual” does not include entities, a much narrower definition than FOIA’s.Lawrence 2016, 37–38The Privacy Act of 1975, in contrast, put restrictions on what the government can do with the information it collects on individuals in order to protect their privacy. At its core, the act prohibits the government from melding databases in which individuals are identified across agencies, or transferring information collected by one agency (e.g. Internal Revenue Service) for one purpose, to another agency (e.g. Department of Justice) for another purpose, without the consent of the individuals involved. . . . The Act’s proponents recognized that people also needed an explicit right to learn exactly what information the government has on them in any one of its myriad agencies, to correct that information if it is wrong, and to seek redress if incorrect information is not removed from an agency’s records. Along the way, of course, the Privacy Act specifies all sorts of exemptions and departures from these overarching principles of protecting privacy and freedom to know what the government knows about a single person. The exemptions for data melding, for example, include all of the governments needs to conduct “routine” business, as well as allowable searches for law enforcement and fraud detection purposes.US DOJ 2022The Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, establishes a code of fair information practices that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies. A system of records is a group of records under the control of an agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifier assigned to the individual. ¶ . . . The Privacy Act prohibits the disclosure of a record about an individual from a system of records absent the written consent of the individual, unless the disclosure is pursuant to one of twelve statutory exceptions. The Act also provides individuals with a means by which to seek access to and amendment of their records, and sets forth various agency record-keeping requirements.
The Privacy Act applies only to records about individuals maintained by agencies in the executive branch of the United States government. It grants rights only to US citizens and aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence. It was amended by the Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988, Pub. L. 100–503.