Privacy Act of 1974

(PL 93-5795; USC 552a: 88 Stat. 1896)

Promotes greater governmental respect for the privacy of citizens. It has been amended by:

  • PL 94-183; December 31, 1975; 89 Stat. 1057
  • PL 97-365; October 25, 1982; 96 Stat. 1749
  • PL 97-375;December 21, 1982; 96 Stat. 1821
  • PL 97-452; January 12, 1983; 96 Stat. 2478
  • PL 98-477; October 15, 1984; 98 Stat. 2211
  • PL 98-497; October 19, 1984; 98 Stat. 2292
  • PL 100-503; October 18, 1988; 102 Stat. 2507
  • PL 101-56;July 19, 1989; 103 Stat. 149

The act requires Federal agencies to adopt minimum standards for the collection and processing of personal information and to publish detailed descriptions of these procedures. It also limits the making of such records available to other public and private agencies or parties and requires agencies to make records on individuals available to them upon request, subject to certain conditions and exclusions.

The Act has four basic policy objectives:

  • To restrict disclosures of personally identifiable records
  • To grant individuals more rights to access records agencies maintain on them
  • To grant individuals the right to seek amendments to agency records maintained on themselves
  • To establish a code of "fair information practices" which requires agencies to comply with statuatory norms for collection, maintenance, and dissemination of records

Personal information shall not be collected by a collector for inclusion in a record or in a generally available publication unless:

  • The information is collected for a lawful purpose directly related to a function or activity of the collector
  • The collection of the information is necessary for, or directly related to, that purpose. Personal information means information or an opinion (including information or an opinion forming part of a database), whether true or not, and whether recorded in a material form or not, about an individual whose identity is apparent, or can reasonably be ascertained, from the information or opinion.

Any personal record must be safeguarded in accordance with Privacy Act procedures.

Explanations are merely to acquaint you with the law and are not meant as legal interpretations.

US Department of Justice: Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974

Full text laws:

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Last Updated: 4/30/24