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The Privacy Act of 1974

The Privacy Act of 1974 is a federal law that governs our collection and use of records we maintain on you in a system of records. A system of records is any grouping of information about an individual under the control of a Federal agency from which information is retrievable by personal identifiers, such as name, social security number, or other identifying number or symbol.  Under the Privacy Act, Federal agencies may not disclose information without consent unless certain exceptions apply to the disclosure. The Privacy Act provides protections to individuals in three primary ways. It provides individuals with:

  • the right to request their records, subject to Privacy Act exemptions;
  • the right to request a change to their records that are not accurate, relevant, timely or complete; and
  • the right to be protected against unwarranted invasion of their privacy resulting from the collection, maintenance, use, and disclosure of their personal information.

All OSC's System of Records Notices (SORNs) are published in the Federal Register. These notices provide the legal authority for collecting and storing records, individuals about whom records will be collected, what kinds of information will be collected, and how the records will be used. 

The following are the twelve (12) Privacy Act Exemptions when consent to release information is not required:

  1. to those officers and employees of the agency which maintains the record who have a need for the record in the performance of their duties;
  2. required under section 552 of this title (FOIA disclosures);
  3. for a routine use as defined in subsection (a)(7) of this section and described under subsection (e)(4)(D) of this section (routine uses);
  4. to the Bureau of the Census for purposes of planning or carrying out a census or survey or related activity pursuant to the provisions of title 13;
  5. to a recipient who has provided the agency with advance adequate written assurance that the record will be used solely as a statistical research or reporting record, and the record is to be transferred in a form that is not individually identifiable;
  6. to the National Archives and Records Administration as a record which has sufficient historical or other value to warrant its continued preservation by the United States Government, or for evaluation by the Archivist of the United States or the designee of the Archivist to determine whether the record has such value;
  7. to another agency or to an instrumentality of any governmental jurisdiction within or under the control of the United States for a civil or criminal law enforcement activity if the activity is authorized by law, and if the head of the agency or instrumentality has made a written request to the agency which maintains the record specifying the particular portion desired and the law enforcement activity for which the record is sought;
  8. to a person pursuant to a showing of compelling circumstances affecting the health or safety of an individual if upon such disclosure notification is transmitted to the last known address of such individual;
  9. to either House of Congress, or, to the extent of matter within its jurisdiction, any committee or subcommittee thereof, any joint committee of Congress or subcommittee of any such joint committee;
  10. to the Comptroller General, or any of his authorized representatives, in the course of the performance of the duties of the Government Accountability Office;
  11. pursuant to the order of a court of competent jurisdiction; or
  12. to a consumer reporting agency in accordance with section 3711(e) of title 31.​