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Frequently-Asked Questions about the Privacy Act


What is the Privacy Act?

The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 552a) is a code of fair information practices which mandates how federal agencies, such as the EPA, maintain records about individuals. The Privacy Act requires that agencies:

  • collect only information that is relevant and necessary to carry out an agency function;
  • maintain no secret records on individuals;
  • explain at the time the information is being collected, why it is needed and how it will be used;
  • ensure that the records are used only for the reasons given, or seek the person's permission when another purpose for the records' use is considered necessary or desirable;
  • provide adequate safeguards to protect the records from unauthorized access and disclosure; and
  • allow people to see the records kept on them and provide them with the opportunity to correct inaccuracies in their records.

The Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, as amended.

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Does the Privacy Act apply to all EPA records?

No. The Privacy Act only applies to EPA records that:

  • contain information on individuals',
  • are maintained by the EPA in a system of records; and
  • are retrieved by a personal identifier, such as a person's name, Social Security Number, biometrics, medical record number or other unique identifier.

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Does the Privacy Act apply to all records maintained about individuals?

No. The Privacy Act only applies to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent resident aliens and only to EPA records that meet the requirements outlined above. The Privacy Act does not apply to deceased persons.

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How does the EPA inform the public about the record systems that are covered by the Privacy Act?

The EPA informs the public about record systems covered by the Privacy Act by publishing notices in the Federal Register. The record systems are referred to as Privacy Act systems of records and the notices provide a description of a particular system of records.

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Who do I contact for more information?

If you need assistance in accessing, contesting, or amending information in a Privacy Act System of Records, contact the EPA Privacy Officer.

If you have questions regarding this website, contact the EPA Privacy Officer.

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