2-3.2 Privacy Act

The Privacy Act provides privacy protections for personal information maintained by agencies.

A summary of the Privacy Act follows.

  1. General. The Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a, applies to federal agencies, including the Postal Service. The Act provides privacy protections for personal information that agencies maintain in a “system of records.” A system of records is a file, database, or program from which personal information is retrieved by name or other identifier. A full description of Privacy Act protections and Postal Service systems of records is contained in the Appendix. Postal Service regulations regarding the Privacy Act are located in 39 CFR 266 and 268. Procedures relating to the Privacy Act are described in chapter 3.
  2. Requirements. When an agency maintains a system of records, it must publish a notice that describes the system in the Federal Register. The notice must document how the agency manages personal information within the system. This includes how information is collected, used, disclosed, stored, and discarded. It also includes how individuals can exercise their rights to obtain access to and amend information relating to themselves contained in the system. The Privacy Act further requires that the Postal Service provide an appropriate privacy notice to individuals when they are asked to provide information about themselves.
  3. Penalties. The Privacy Act provides criminal penalties, in the form of fines of up to $5,000, for any officer or employee who:
    1. Willfully maintains a system of records that contains information about an individual without giving appropriate notice in the Federal Register; or
    2. Knowing that disclosure is prohibited, willfully discloses information about an individual in any manner to any person or agency not entitled to receive it.

The Privacy Act also provides criminal penalties, in the form of fines of up to $5,000, for any person who knowingly and willfully requests or obtains under false pretenses any record about another individual.