Privacy Act of 1974
HOW TO MAKE A PRIVACY ACT REQUEST WITH THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY - CARLSBAD FIELD OFFICE
Privacy Act requests may be submitted in person or in writing by regular mail to the U.S. Department of Energy – Carlsbad Field Office at the following address:
Privacy Act Public Liaison
U.S. Department of Energy
Carlsbad Field Office
P.O. Box 3090
4021 National Parks Highway
Carlsbad, New Mexico 88221-3090
If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail the U.S. Department of Energy – Carlsbad Field Office Privacy Act contact person, Margaret Gee, at the following email address: Margaret.Gee@cbfo.doe.gov.
In your Privacy Act request, please:
- State that you are requesting the records pursuant to the Privacy Act of 1974;
- Describe the records being sought as clearly as possible (e.g., Personnel Records; Medical Records, X-ray Reports; Occupational & Industrial Records; Radiation Exposure Records; etc.); and
- State whether you are seeking access to or requesting to amend your record (“Privacy Act Access” request or “Privacy Act Amendment” request).
You may request to review, in person, the records being sought. If you are a former employee, providing as much of the following information will be helpful in locating potential records:
- Your full name and other names you might have used;
- Your current home or business address;
- Your date of birth;
- Your social security number;
- Company name(s) (employed by or agencies associated with);
- Dates of your employment (start and end dates, if known, or an approximation in years);
- Your badge number, if known;
- Your position title(s) or job duties.
Please provide a telephone number where you can be reached during the day in case there are questions. Do not forget to sign and date your request.
For Privacy Act purposes, you will need to establish your identity. This can be accomplished by:
- Including with your request, if submitted by mail, photocopies of two identifying documents with your name and signature, one of which includes your current home or business address and your date of birth; or
- Providing a signed and notarized statement attesting to (“under penalty of perjury”) your identity (providing your full name, date of birth, and current address), as well as your understanding of the criminal penalties provided under the Privacy Act for obtaining records under false pretenses; or
- Appearing in person at the appropriate Department of Energy location during regular business hours and presenting either of the following:
- one identifying document with your photograph and signature, such as a driver’s license or passport; or
- two identifying documents with your name and signature, one of which includes your current home or business address and your date of birth.
For further information on how to submit a request pursuant to the Privacy Act of 1974 to the U.S. Department of Energy – Carlsbad Field Office, feel free to contact the Privacy Act contact person by e-mail at Margaret.Gee@cbfo.doe.gov. You may also refer to our implementing regulation, Title 10 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1008 (10 CFR 1008).
PRIVACY ACT OVERVIEW
The purpose of the Privacy Act of 1974 (Act), Title 5, United States Code, Section 552a, as amended, is to balance the government’s need to maintain information about individuals with the rights of individuals to be protected against unwarranted invasions of privacy by the federal government stemming from the collection, maintenance, use, and disclosure of personal information. Therefore, unlike the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act is not a disclosure act and is implemented by the U.S. Department of Energy under Title 10, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1008 (10 CFR, Part 1008). The Privacy Act applies only to federal agencies in the executive branch of the federal government (including the Executive Office of the President), such as the Department of Energy. Agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act are also subject to the Privacy Act. Generally, the Privacy Act does not apply to state and local governments or private companies, unless they are involved in a computer matching program with the federal government or are under contract to operate a Privacy Act system of records for an agency of the federal government. While any person may request records under the Freedom of Information Act, only U.S. citizens and aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence may request their personal records under the Privacy Act. Records subject to the Privacy Act are those records concerning individuals maintained in a system of records. A record contains individually unique identifiable material, such as social security number, medical history, employment history, financial data, criminal history, etc. A system of records is a group of records under the name of the individual, or some other identifying number or symbol. Records kept on individuals that are not retrievable in this way are not subject to the Privacy Act; however, this type of information can be requested under the Freedom of Information Act.
The focus of the Privacy Act is on four basic policy objectives:
- To restrict disclosures of personally identifiable records maintained by agencies;
- To grant individuals increased rights of access to agency records maintained on themselves;
- To grant individuals the right to seek amendment of agency records maintained on themselves upon a showing that the records are not accurate, relevant, timely, or complete;
- To establish a code of "fair information practices", which requires agencies to comply with statutory norms for collection, maintenance, and dissemination of records.
Under the provisions of the Privacy Act, an agency must allow individuals to see and copy records about themselves. Individuals must also have the opportunity to amend any information in the records that is not timely, accurate, relevant, or complete. Agencies must publish notices in the Federal Register describing each system of records they maintain. This provision prevents the keeping of secret record systems. Agencies may not maintain information on individuals about how they exercise their First Amendment rights, unless maintenance of that information is specifically authorized by statute or related to a law enforcement activity.
DISCLOSURE OF PERSONAL INFORMATION
Disclosure of personal information maintained by an agency is limited and defined by the Privacy Act. Agencies cannot disclose any record contained in a system of records to any person, or to another agency without written consent of the individual to whom the record pertains unless disclosure of the record would be:
- To those officers and employees of the agency that maintains the record who have a need for the record in the performance of their duties;
- Required under the Freedom of Information Act;
- In accordance with a “routine use” as defined in subsection (a)(7) and described in subsection (e) of the Privacy Act;
- To the Bureau of the Census for purposes of planning or carrying out a census or survey in accordance with Title 13 (4) (D) of the Privacy Act;
- To an individual who provides written assurance that the record will be used only for statistical research and that it is provided in a way that is not individually identifiable;
- To the National Archives and Records Administration if the record is historically significant;
- To another agency or governmental instrument within the United States for civil or criminal law enforcement activity;
- To a person pursuant to a showing of compelling circumstances affecting the health or safety of an individual;
- To either House of Congress, or any committee or subcommittee thereof;
- To the Comptroller General in the course of the performance of the duties of the General Accounting Office;
- Pursuant to the order of a court of competent jurisdiction; or
- To a consumer reporting agency in accordance with Title 31 of Section 3711 (e) of the United States Code.
Except for disclosures made under (1) and (2) above, agencies are required to maintain an accounting of the date, nature, and purpose of each disclosure of a record to any person or to another agency and of the name and address of the person or agency to whom the disclosure is made.
Violations of the provisions of the Act are enforceable though legal action. Criminal and civil penalties may apply. It is a crime to knowingly and willfully request or obtain records concerning an individual from an agency under false pretenses. A request under the Privacy Act can be made by the individual who is the subject of the requested records (except for parents or legal guardians of minors).
Exemptions offered by the Privacy Act to prevent disclosure are rarely used.
There are generally two exemptions:
- CIA System of Records - Records maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency; and
- Criminal Investigatory Records - Records relating to law enforcement activities.
The Privacy Act lists seven specific exemptions. Systems of Records may be exempt if they are:
- Classified Records - Subject to the provisions of section 552(b) (1) of the Freedom of Information Act (information properly classified in the interest of national security or foreign policy);
- Law Enforcement Investigative Records - Investigatory material compiled for law enforcement purposes other than those spelled out in the general exemption;
- Secret Service Records - Maintained in connection with providing protective services to the President of the United States or other individuals pursuant to Title 18 Section 3056 of the U.S. Code (powers, authorities, and duties of United States Secret Service);
- Statistical Records - Required by statute to be maintained and used solely as statistical records;
- Background Investigative Records - Investigatory material compiled solely for the purpose of determining suitability, eligibility, or qualifications for federal civilian employment, military service, federal contracts, or access to classified material, but only to the extent that the disclosure of material would reveal a source who furnished information to the government under an express promise of confidentiality;
- Testing Records - Testing or examination material used solely to determine individual qualifications for appointment or promotion in the federal service the disclosure of which would compromise the objectivity or fairness of the testing or examination process;
- Military Evaluation Records - Evaluation material used to determine potential for promotion in the armed services, but only to the extent that the disclosure of the information would reveal a source who furnished information to the government under an express promise of confidentiality;
FEES AND TIME LIMITS
The Privacy Act allows agencies to assess fees only for the cost of reproducing records. Typically no fee is assessed for a Privacy Act request. Unlike the Freedom of Information Act, there is no time limit for an agency to respond to a Privacy Act request under Title 10 CFR, Part 1008.7(b) states, “Every effort will be made to respond within 20 working days of the date of receipt by the System Manager or designees”. The U.S. Department of Energy - Carlsbad Field Office strives to meet the 20-day response time. The Privacy Act does stipulate a 20-day timeframe when an individual requests to amend their records.
LINKS TO OTHER INTERESTING SITES
The Privacy Act of 1974 (Title 5, United States Code, Section 552a) The Federal Register is the official daily publication for Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as Executive Orders and other Presidential Documents. The Privacy Act Issuances Compilationcontains descriptions of Federal agency systems of records maintained on individuals and rules agencies follow to assist individuals who request information about their records. The Department of Justice Office of Information and Privacy (OIP), relative to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act, coordinates and implements policy development and compliance government-wide for the FOIA, and by the Department for the Privacy Act, and deciding all appeals from denials by any Department component of access to information under those Acts. A Citizen’s Guide on Using the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974 to Request Government Records DOE Office of Hearing and Appeals Searchable Index of FOIA and Privacy Act Appeals.