The purpose of the Privacy Act of 1974, Title 5, United States Code, Section 552a, is to balance the U.S. Government's need to maintain information about individuals with the rights of individuals to be protected against unwarranted invasions of their privacy stemming from federal agencies' collection, maintenance, use and disclosure of personal information about them.
The Privacy Act grants rights to United States citizens and legal permanent residents. Under the Privacy Act, you:
- Have the right to see records about yourself
- Can correct a record that is inaccurate, irrelevant, untimely or incomplete
The Privacy Act mandates that the U.S. Government:
- Informs you why information is being collected and how it is going to be used
- Assures that information is accurate, relevant, complete and up-to-date before disclosing it to others
- Allows you to find out about disclosures of your records to other agencies or persons
- Provides you with the opportunity to correct inaccuracies in your records
The Privacy Act applies only to records about individuals maintained by agencies in the executive branch of the government. It applies to these records only if they are kept in a "system of records."
A system of records is a group of records from which the information was retrieved by an individual's name, social security number, date of birth or some other personal identifier.