FOR COMPLYING WITH THE
PRESIDENT'S MEMORANDUM OF MAY 14, 1998,
"Privacy and Personal Information in Federal Records"
A. WHAT IS
THE PURPOSE OF THE REVIEW?
Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. § 552a, the Act) requires agencies to
inform the public of the existence of systems of records containing
personal information, to give individuals access to records about
themselves in a system of records, and to manage those records in
a way to ensure fairness to individuals in agency programs.
For the Privacy
Act to work effectively, it is imperative that each agency properly
maintain its systems of records and ensure that the public is adequately
informed about the systems of records the agency maintains and the
uses that are being made of the records in those systems. Therefore,
agencies must periodically review their systems of records and the
published notices that describe them to ensure that they are accurate
and complete. OMB Circular A-130, "Management of Federal Information
Resources," (61 Fed. Reg. 6428, Feb. 20, 1996) requires agencies
to conduct periodic reviews, and this memorandum satisfies that
requirement for calendar year FY 1999. Agencies should continue
to conduct reviews in accordance with the schedule in Appendix I
of the Circular.
to directing agencies to ensure the accuracy and completeness of
their systems of records, the President also directed agencies to
review their data sharing practices with state, local and tribal
WHAT ACTIONS MUST AGENCIES TAKE?
In order to
carry out the President's directive, agencies will carry out six
specific tasks. They should immediately designate a Senior Official
their systems of records, ensure that the notices published in the
Federal Register describing those systems of records are
up-to-date, and publish a notice for any system of records previously
overlooked. They will also review information sharing practices
with State, local, and tribal governments, and, finally, report
to OMB the results of these reviews. More detailed instructions
for each of these tasks follow.
head should have already designated a senior official within the
with the President's Memorandum. This individual will not necessarily
be the same person who is responsible for implementation of the
Privacy Act. For most Cabinet agencies, the appropriate official
would probably be a policy official at the Assistant Secretary level,
or equivalent, who in a position within the agency to consider privacy
policy issues on a national level.
OMB promptly of the name, title, address, phone number, and electronic
mail address of the designated Senior Official for your agency.
Review and Improve the Management of Privacy Act Systems of Records.
shall conduct a thorough review of its systems of records, system
of records notices, and routine uses in accordance with the criteria
and guidance below. Because the President directed agencies to review
systems of records, we have provided guidance on a subset of the
Privacy Act's requirements that are particularly relevant to systems
The goal is
to focus agency resources on the most probable areas of out-of-date
information, so that reviews will have the maximum impact in ensuring
that system of records notices remain accurate and complete. An
agency may rely on its ongoing reviews under Circular A-130 to help
focus its review. An agency might decide to pay particular attention
to identifying those systems of records that may have been altered
by the application of new technology, changes in function, or changes
in organizational structure that have occurred since the agency's
last review of its systems of records. In addition, an agency may
find the President's directive provides an opportunity to strengthen
agency procedures to ensure reviews are timely conducted.
Information maintained about individuals must be relevant and necessary.
way for an agency to protect individual privacy is to limit the
amount of information that the agency maintains about individuals.
Therefore, each agency shall review its systems of records to ensure
that they contain only that information about individuals that is
"relevant and necessary" to accomplish an agency purpose.
Act limits agencies to maintaining "only such information about
an individual as is relevant and necessary to accomplish a purpose
of the agency required to be accomplished by statute or Executive
order of the President." 5 U.S.C. § 552a(e)(1). Information
that was relevant and necessary when a system of records was first
established may, over time, cease to be relevant or necessary. This
may result, for example, from a change in agency function or reorganization,
or from a change in how the agency operates a program.
If your agency
determines that any information about individuals in a system of
records is no longer relevant and necessary, or if your agency determines
that the entire system of records itself is no longer relevant and
necessary, then the agency should expunge the records (or system
of records) in accordance with the procedures outlined in the Privacy
Act notice(s) and the prescribed record retention schedule approved
by the National Archives and Records Administration. The system
notice should be accordingly revised (or rescinded).
Privacy Act records must be protected by appropriate safeguards.
For that information
which agencies do maintain, agencies must ensure the information's
security and confidentiality. Therefore, each agency shall review
its systems of records to ensure that the safeguards in place are
appropriate to the types of records and the level of security required.
Act requires agencies to "establish appropriate administrative,
technical and physical safeguards to insure 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 the information is maintained." 5 U.S.C. § 552a(e)(10).
In addition, the Paperwork Reduction Act requires agencies to "implement
and enforce applicable policies, procedures, standards, and guidelines
on privacy, confidentiality, security, disclosure and sharing of
information collected or maintained by or for the agency" and "identify
and afford security protections commensurate with the risk and magnitude
of the harm resulting from the loss, misuse, or unauthorized access
to or modification of information collected or maintained by or
on behalf of an agency." 44 U.S.C. § 3506(g).
and given changes in how records are used and maintained, safeguards
that may have been appropriate in the past may no longer be sufficient,
or they may no longer be necessary. For example, safeguards that
were appropriate for a system of records maintained in paper form
may no longer be appropriate when the system of records has been
converted to electronic form.
If your agency
determines that changes to the safeguards should be made, then the
agency should implement the changes and publish a system of records
notice that reflects the updated safeguards. Note that the system
of records notice should not state that access is limited to those
who need the information in the course of their duties. Rather,
the notice should explain how access is limited by describing
the types of safeguards in place, such as locks, building access
controls, passwords, network authentication, etc.
Routine uses must meet the "compatibility" standard.
disclosures created by administrative mechanisms should only be
made when appropriate. Therefore, each agency shall review its "routine
uses" to identify any routine uses that are no longer justified,
or which are no longer compatible with the purpose for which the
information was collected.
Act authorizes agencies to disclose information about individuals
under a "routine use." A routine use is defined as a disclosure
of a record outside of the agency "for a purpose which is compatible
with the purpose for which it was collected." 5 U.S.C. § 552a(a)(7),
The Act requires
agencies to include in their systems of records notices a description
of the routine uses for which information in a system of records
may be disclosed. 5 U.S.C. § 552a(e)(4)(D).
It may be
the case that the circumstances which justified a routine-use disclosure
have ceased to exist, or that the purpose for which the records
are collected has changed over time so that the routine use no longer
makes sense. Agencies should consult the Privacy Act Overview
published by the Department of Justice each November (and available
through the Government Printing Office) for judicial rulings which
may affect the agency's routine uses. Such changes may well mean
that the routine use is no longer justified or that the routine
use is no longer compatible with the purpose for which the information
is being collected. Agencies should review each routine use to ensure
that each continues to be appropriate. In addition, agencies should
review the associated system of records notices to ensure that it
accurately and completely describes the routine uses, including
the categories of users and the purpose of such use.
If an agency
determines that a routine use is no longer appropriate, the agency
should discontinue the routine-use disclosures and delete the routine
use from the system of records notice. If an agency determines that
the system of records notice does not accurately and completely
describe the routine uses, the agency should revise the notice accordingly.
Agencies must keep an accounting of disclosures and make it available.
In order to
ensure fairness to individuals they must be able to determine who
has seen their records and when they were seen. Therefore, each
agency should review its procedures for accounting for disclosures
to ensure they are working properly.
Act requires agencies to "keep an accurate accounting" regarding
"each disclosure of a record to any person or to another agency,
"and to retain the accounting for at least five years or the life
of the record, whichever is longer." 5 U.S.C. § 552a(c). As
in the other contexts discussed above, "changes in technology, function,
and organization" may result in accounting procedures becoming outdated
or may result in inadequate implementation of accounting procedures
that remain appropriate. An agency is relieved by the statute of
accounting for disclosures made within the agency on a need-to-know
basis or disclosure required by the Freedom of Information Act.
5 U.S.C. § 552a(c)(1). However, all other disclosures under
5 U.S.C. § 552a(b) must be accounted for, including those made
under routine uses, and those made pursuant to requests from law
enforcement agencies (even though the latter may be exempt from
disclosures to the subject individual). While an agency need not
keep a running tabulation of every disclosure at the time it is
made, the agency must be able to reconstruct an accurate and complete
accounting of disclosures so as to be able to respond to requests
in a timely fashion.
If an agency
determines that changes to the accounting procedures should be made,
then the agency should implement the changes promptly.
Systems of records should not be inappropriately combined.
records which have different purposes, routine uses, or security
requirements, or which are regularly accessed by different members
of the agency staff, should be maintained and managed as separate
systems of records to avoid lapses in security. Therefore, agencies
shall ensure that their systems of records do not inappropriately
combine groups of records which should be segregated. This ensures,
for example, that routine uses which are appropriate for certain
groups of records do not also apply to other groups of records simply
because they have been placed together in a common system of records.
changes in agency operations or functions may result in increased
differences among the records that are contained within a common
system of records. Groups of records that once were appropriately
combined into a common system may have become sufficiently different
that they should be divided into separate systems. Accordingly,
during the course of the agency's review of its systems of records
under B.2. of these instructions,
and of its systems notices under B.3.
of these instructions, an agency should identify instances where
a system of records includes groups of records which -- because
of their different purposes, routine uses, or security requirements
-- should not be combined together into a common system of records,
but instead should be maintained and managed as separate systems
agency systems of records should not duplicate or be combined with
those systems which have been designated as "government wide systems
of records." A government wide system of records is one for which
one agency has regulatory authority over records in the custody
of many different agencies. Usually these are federal personnel
or administrative records. Such government-wide systems ensure that
privacy practices with respect to those records are carried out
in accordance with the responsible agency's regulations uniformly
across the federal government. For example, a civilian agency subject
to the personnel rules of the Office of Personnel Management should
manage its official personnel folders in accordance with the government
wide notice published by OPM for those records, OPM/GOVT-1. The
custodial agency need not, and should not, publish a system of records
which covers the same records. A list of government-wide systems
of records may be found at Attachment C, along with the name of
someone who can answer specific questions about those systems of
Ensure notices describing systems of records are up-to-date, accurate
In order to
exercise their rights, individuals must have access to an up-to-date
statement of what types of information are maintained and for what
reasons. Therefore, each agency shall conduct a review of its systems
of records notices to ensure that they are up-to-date, to conform
with any necessary changes identified during the review under section
B.2. of these instructions.
Act requires agencies to publish, upon the establishment of a system
of records, a notice that describes the system. 5 U.S.C. §
552a(e)(4). The core purpose of a system of records notice is to
inform the public what types of records the agency maintains, who
the records are about, and what uses are made of them. As the President
noted in his Memorandum, however, "changes in technology, function,
and organization" may have the effect of making system of records
notices "out of date."
of records notice should accurately and completely describe each
category in the notice to comply with the requirements of 5 U.S.C.
§ 552a(e)(4) and the Federal Register Document Drafting
Handbook. (The Handbook can be found at the web page
of National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), at
http://www.nara.gov/fedreg/draftres.html or by contacting the
Office of the Federal Register.) The goal is to provide a notice
helpful to someone who might be a subject of the records. The reviewer
should ask, "If this system of records contained information about
my friends or relatives, would this notice allow them to understand
what type of records are kept, who uses them, and why?"
take note that the descriptive categories for systems of records
notices have changed over time. For example, the Drafting Handbook
now requires that each system of records include a Purpose statement.
This statement should briefly explain the program purpose for which
the records are collected and which the system of records supports.
While a notice-by-notice
review may be appropriate, an agency may also decide to concentrate
its review by focusing on those notices that are more likely to
contain outdated information. An agency using this targeted approach,
for example, could begin its review by identifying changes in technology,
function, and organization -- that is, changes in how the agency
operates -- that would have the potential to make a system of records
notice out-of-date. Based on this analysis, the agency would then
identify those systems of records that would most likely have been
affected by these changes in agency operations. Under this approach,
an agency should focus its review on those notices that apply to
systems of records that have been automated; that are operated by
an office (or for a program) that has been assigned increased (or
decreased) responsibilities; or that have been involved in an agency
reorganization. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list; an agency
should seek to identify other ways in which changing agency operations
may have affected the accuracy and completeness of its systems of
Identify any Unpublished Systems of Records.
the Privacy Act, the Congress made a strong policy statement that
in order to ensure fairness, there shall be no record keeping systems
the very existence of which is secret. Therefore, each agency shall
review its operations to identify any de facto systems
of records for which no system of records notice has been published.
If the agency
identifies any such unpublished systems of records, then the agency
should publish a system of records notice for the system promptly.
Agencies shall implement appropriate measures (e.g., training) to
ensure that system of records are not inadvertently established,
but instead are established in accordance with the notice and other
requirements of the Privacy Act.
Review Information Sharing Practices with State, Local and Tribal
with the President's May 14, 1998, directive and the Vice President's
announcement on July 31 that the Administration intends to open
a dialogue with the States about information sharing, each agency
shall review their practices of sharing personal information with
State, local and tribal governments. This review should include
a review of the agency's systems of records, computer matching programs,
and routine uses which provide for intergovernmental collection
or disclosure of information. Agencies should not survey
the States to collect information, but should use internal sources
of information to conduct the review.
pay particular attention to the types of information that is being
shared; the purpose(s) for which the information is shared; the
frequency with which it is shared; and the rules (if any) regarding
the retention, re-disclosure, and destruction of Federally-supplied
information by the State, local or tribal governments. In conducting
this review, agencies shall evaluate whether each collection or
disclosure continues to be appropriate and consider whether adequate
confidentiality and security safeguards apply. In this regard, "changes
in technology, function, and organization" (whether at the Federal
level or at the State, local or tribal level) may render outdated
the sharing of certain types of information (or the frequency of
sharing), or may result in applicable safeguards being inadequate
(or inadequately implemented).
Based on these
reviews, agencies should identify any potential changes to information
sharing practices that deserve further review. Agencies should address,
including through discussions with their governmental counterparts,
whether and how such potential changes should be made.
Report to OMB.
the review outlined above, each agency should summarize its findings
in a report to OMB, as described below.
What should the report contain?
report should include the following:
a. A certification
by the agency's Chief Information Officer and the agency's Senior
of these instructions, that the review was conducted.
b. A summary
of the actions taken as a result of the review, including citations
to the Federal Register notices of any issuances of, or revisions
to, systems of records notices.
c. A summary
of future actions that the agency plans to take as a result
of the review to assure sound privacy practices across the agency,
and a schedule of when those actions will be completed.
d. A summary
of the agency's review of its routine uses, including, in particular,
the extent to which the agency found that its routine uses remain
justified and compatible with the purpose for which the information
e. A description
of the agency's major information sharing practices with State,
local and tribal governments, including in particular whether
the review identified potential changes to sharing practices
that will undergo further review (and if so, a description of
such potential changes).
subjects on which the agency would like further OMB guidance
on the Privacy Act, and any recommendations regarding such guidance.
When is the deadline for reporting?
With the exception
B.1., which should be made immediately,
the report in B.6. should be
made to OMB by May 14, 1999.
To whom should the report be addressed?
Management and Budget
725 17th Street,
D.WHO CAN ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS MEMORANDUM?
For more information
regarding these instructions, contact:
Senior Policy Analyst
Information Policy and Technology Branch
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503