Privacy Act of 1974

What is the Privacy Act of 1974?

The Privacy Act allows U.S. citizens and lawfully admitted aliens to request copies of GSA records that are about themselves and are maintained in a “system of records,” as defined in the Privacy Act. The Privacy Act also requires GSA to maintain accurate, current records, and to notify the public of all of the systems of records it creates by publishing system of records notices (SORNs) in the Federal Register. In addition, the Privacy Act imposes other obligations on GSA, for example, requiring GSA to use administrative, technical and physical safeguards to protect personal information contained in systems of records.

May I Access Records Covered By The Privacy Act?

You can ask GSA for access to records about yourself or individuals for whom you may serve as an authorized representative or legal guardian in accordance with the GSA's Privacy Act Rules. You can also ask GSA to correct records that are inaccurate, incomplete, untimely, or irrelevant. However, when a system is exempt from certain sections of the Privacy Act, there may be limitations on the disclosure or amendment of records. Systems are exempt, for example, if disclosure of the records may compromise the enforcement of criminal laws, or reveal the identity of a confidential witness.

How Do I File A Privacy Act Request?

To determine whether a system of records contains information about you, to access a record about yourself (or someone else that you serve as an authorized representative or legal guardian for) in a given system of records, or to request an amendment to the contents of a particular record, you may mail or personally deliver a written and signed inquiry to:

Privacy Act Request
General Services Administration Privacy Office
1800 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20405

Your request must:

  • Be in writing and signed by individual making the request;
  • Include the full name of the individual seeking the information or record;
  • Include a description of the records you seek; the title and number of the system of records as published in the Federal Register; a brief description of the nature, time, and place of your association with GSA; and any other information you believe will help in locating the record; and

GSA also requires you to provide reasonable identification with your request to insure that information and records are disclosed only to the proper person. Valid methods of personal identification include:

  • A photocopy of photographic identification such as an agency identification badge, passport, or driver's license; or
  • In-person appearance at at the office where the records are maintained during regular working hours, as well as:
    • One piece of identification containing your photograph and signature (e.g., a driver’s license or passport).

For amendment requests please specify:

  • The nature of the amendment you would like to make, and the justification for the requested change. Please describe the record with as much specificity as you can to facilitate the location of the record among all of those maintained by GSA.

What Would A Sample Privacy Act Request Look Like?

The following is a sample letter you may want to use to format your Privacy Act request. You will need to provide the information in brackets, as well as any additional information pertinent to the unique context and circumstances of your request.

[Date]

General Services Administration Privacy Office
1800 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20405

Re: Privacy Act Request

Dear GSA Privacy Office Staff:

This is a request under the Privacy Act. I request that a copy of the following documents be provided to me:

[Identify the documents or information as specifically as possible.]

These documents are included in [Identify the system of records where you believe the information is located. Please refer to GSA’s summaries of the holdings of its systems of records.]
If you have any questions about processing this request, you may contact me at [telephone number] or [email address].

Sincerely,

[Signature]
[Print name]
[Address]
[City, State, Zip Code]
[Telephone number]
[Optional: Fax number]
[Optional: Email address]
Attachments: [proof of identity as stated above]

What Happens After I File A Privacy Act Request?

The system manager will make a record available within 10 workdays after receipt of your request. If a delay of more than 10 workdays is expected, the system manager will notify you in writing of the reason for the delay and when the record will be available. The system manager may ask you for additional information to clarify your request. The system manager will have an additional 10 workdays after receipt of the new information to provide the record to you, or provide another acknowledgment letter if a delay in locating the record is expected.

If the record is available, you may view a copy of the record at a GSA office during regular working hours or you can request a copy of the record subject to fees for copying records.

In the case of a requested amendment, GSA will determine whether the record is in fact inaccurate, incomplete, misleading, irrelevant, or not timely, as claimed. If GSA finds a need for amendment according to the information you submit, then GSA will amend the record in accordance with your request. You will then receive notice that GSA has taken the action to amend. Conversely, if GSA denies amendment in whole or in part, you will receive notification of this fact.

Is GSA Entitled To Withhold Certain Information?

GSA is entitled to withhold certain information under the Privacy Act if, for example, disclosure of the records may compromise the enforcement of criminal laws, or reveal the identity of a confidential witness. This includes investigatory materials compiled for law enforcement purposes, or for determining an individual’s suitability, eligibility, or qualifications for employment with GSA, or for matters under investigation by the Office of the Inspector General. For more information on statutory exemptions from disclosure, see 15 U.S.C. § 552a(j)-(k).

In addition to the above considerations, there are other limitations on the disclosure of records. First, if the disclosure involves medical records, the records may only be provided to a physician designated in writing by the individual requesting the records. Furthermore, when a document containing information about the requesting individual also contains information pertaining to another person, that particular information will not be disclosed.

For More Information See:

The Privacy Act of 1974

GSA Privacy Act Systems of Records Notices

A Citizen’s Guide on Using the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974 to Request Government Records

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