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The Privacy Act of 1974 (Pub.L. 93–579, 88 Stat. 1896, enacted December 31, 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a), a United States federal law, establishes a Code of Fair Information Practice that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personally identifiable 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 requires that agencies give the public notice of their systems of records by publication in the Federal Register. The Privacy Act prohibits the disclosure of information from a system of records absent the written consent of the subject 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 states in part:
There are specific exceptions for the record allowing the use of personal records:
The Privacy Act mandates that each United States Government agency have in place an administrative and physical security system to prevent the unauthorized release of personal records.
To protect the privacy and liberty rights of individuals, federal agencies must state "the authority (whether granted by statute, or by Executive order of the President) which authorizes the solicitation of the information and whether disclosure of such information is mandatory or voluntary" when requesting information. (5 U.S.C. § 552e) This notice is common on almost all federal government forms which seek to gather information from individuals, many of which seek personal and confidential details.
Subsection requires that each agency have a Data Integrity Board. It is supposed to make an annual report to OMB, available to the public, that includes all complaints that the Act was violated, such as use of records for unauthorized reasons or the holding of First Amendment Records and report on —…"(v) any violations of matching agreements that have been alleged or identified and any corrective action taken”. Former Attorney General Dick Thornburg appointed a Data Integrity Board but since then USDOJ has not published any Privacy Act reports.
The Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988, P.L. 100–503, amended the Privacy Act of 1974 by adding certain protections for the subjects of Privacy Act records whose records are used in automated matching programs. These protections have been mandated to ensure:
The Computer Matching Act is codified as part of the Privacy Act.
The Privacy Act also states:
Therefore the records held by courts, executive components, or non-agency government entities are not subject to the provisions in the Privacy Act and there is no right to these records.
Following the controversial Passenger Name Record agreement signed with the European Union (EU) in 2007, the Bush administration provided an exemption for the Department of Homeland Security and the Arrival and Departure Information System (ADIS) from the U.S. Privacy Act. ADIS is intended to authorize people to travel only after PNR and API (Advance Passenger Information) data has been checked and cleared through a US agency watchlist. The Automated Targeting System is also to be exempted. The Privacy Act does not protect non-US persons, which is problematic for the exchange of Passenger Name Record information between the US and the European Union.
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