Privacy Act >Page 1, 2
How to Request Privacy Act Information
Send a letter (regular mail only) addressed to the Privacy Officer or agency head. To speed handling, clearly mark "Privacy Act Request" on both the letter and the front of the envelope. Here's a sample letter:
Sample Privacy Act Request Letter
Privacy Act Request
Agency Privacy or FOIA Officer [or Agency Head]
Name of Agency or Component
Under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. subsection 552, and the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. subsection 552a, I am requesting access to [identify the information you want in complete detail and state why you believe the agency has the information about you.]
If there are any fees for searching or copying these records, please inform me before filling my request. [or, Please send me the records without informing me of the cost unless the fees exceed $______, which I agree to pay.]
If you deny any or all of this request, please cite each specific exemption you feel justifies the refusal to release the information and notify me of appeal procedures available to me under the law.
[Optionally: If you have any questions about this request, you may contact me by telephone at ______ (home phone) or _______ (office phone).]
What it Will Cost
The Privacy Act allows agencies to charge no more than their costs for copying the information for you. They cannot charge for researching your request.
How Long it Will Take
The Act places no time limits on the agencies. Most agencies try to respond within 10 working days. If you have not received a reply within a month, send the request again and enclose a copy of your original request.
What to Do if the Information is Wrong
If you think the information the agency has on you is wrong and should be changed, write a letter addressed to the agency official who sent the information to you. Include the exact changes you think should be made along with any documentation you have that backs up your claim.
Agencies have 10 working days to notify you of receipt of your request and to inform you if they need further proof or details of the changes from you. If the agency grants you request, they will inform you of exactly what they will do to amend the records.
What to Do if Your Request is Denied
If the agency denies your Privacy Act request (either to supply or change information), they will advise you in writing of their appeal process. You can also take your case to court and be awarded court costs and attorney's fees if you win.
Related Information on About.com
If you are concerned with the U.S. Government's policies of capturing personal information, About,.com Guide to Civil Liberties, J.D. Tuccille has this great set of resources for you.
Social Security Number Privacy
Let Civil Liberties Guide J.D. Tuccille show you why these 9 numbers have become the key to our private lives.
A basic guide on how to request information under the FOIA from your About.,com Guide.
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