How the US Privacy Act Works

Every US citizen's privacy is protected and dictated by the US Privacy Act. Without you knowing how the US Privacy Act works, you will never have an idea on how the government should be protecting your information.

Consider this, you always have to provide private information when filling out documents for the federal government. And with advanced electronic communications, anyone could easily get access to your personal sheet, that is, if your private information is not protected in accordance with the US Privacy Act.

So, how does the US Privacy Act work?  The US Privacy Act of 1974 regulates and identifies the personal information that the Federal Government can only collect about you or other private individuals. This Act also dictates how these pieces of information should be used.

Under this Act, you are given the right to see information or data that the US government has kept about you. You also have the right to modify or delete information about yourself that isincomplete, untimely, irrelevant, or incorrect. This Act also gives you the power to sue the US government in case it violates this Act, say for example, if the government allowed other unauthorized people to access information about you.

The Privacy Act limits the information about you that you can have access to. This Act only applies for the Executive Branch of the government. Aside from that, you can only get access to information that can be retrieved using your social security number, name, or other personal identifiers. That is why you can’t access information about the private clubs or organizations where you are a member unless this information can be accessed through your name, SS number, or other personal identifiers.

In accessing information under the US Privacy Act you need to go through the process of sending a letter, addressed to the agency head or the Privacy Officer. If you want a faster transaction, you should put “Privacy Act Request” label on the letter and on the front of the envelope. The agency of the Privacy Officer will assess if you can be allowed access to the information you’re requesting. If allowed, then they will give you a copy of the information. You will pay only for the cost of copying the information.

Don’t expect to receive a response until about ten working days from the day they receive your letter. In case you do not receive any reply after a month, then you should resend your request. Don’t forget to enclose one copy of your past request. Most people who request information are only checking if the agency’s information about them is correct. In case some data about you are incorrect or need changes or omissions, you should first write a letter to the agency official and enclose the changes you want to be made.

By knowing how the US Privacy Act works, you will not only be able to protect the information through electronic communications that the government has about you, but you will be able to modify incorrect information about yourself as well.


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