The Privacy Act of 1974: An Assessment. APPENDIX 4 TO The Report of The Privacy Protection Study Commission.. Civil and Criminal Remedies


The Commission suggests revising subsection 3(g) of the current law [5 U.S.C 552a(g)] to allow an individual to obtain a court order compelling an agency to comply with the Act without having to demonstrate that he has actually been harmed by its failure. [(k)(1)-(3)] In some cases, it is virtually impossible to show injury or adverse effect as a result of a violation of the Privacy Act. If a notice requirement is violated, for example, such a showing is probably impossible. Even where an agency retains and refuses to correct inaccurate information, it may be difficult to demonstrate actual injury. Hence, the Commission believes an individual should be granted standing without the requirement to show specific injury.

In those cases where an individual can show adverse effect, the Commission's suggested language incorporates new damage standards. The minimum $1,000 recovery in the current law is retained, but general damages may also be sought up to $10,000 in excess of the dollar amount of any special damages. [(k)(4)]

The provision enabling an indvidual to seek injunctive relief would also be broadened. Any exemption upon which an agency bases a refusal to permit access would be open to judicial review. Further, a court would be empowered to order an agency to comply with any of the requirements of the Act, not only the access and correction provisions. [(k)(2), (3)]

The criminal penalties currently in the Act [5 U.S.C. 552a(i)] would remain unchanged. [(l)]