The Privacy Act of 1974: An Assessment. APPENDIX 4 TO The Report of The Privacy Protection Study Commission.. Impact on Information Collection


Subsections 3(e)(1), 3(e)(2), and 3(e)(7) of the Privacy Act require each agency that maintains a system of records to:

. . . maintain in its records only such information about an individual as is relevant and necessary to accomplish a purpose of the agency required to be accomplished by statute or by executive order of the President. . .[5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(1)];

. . . collect information to the greatest extent practicable directly from the subject individual when the information may result in adverse determinations about an individual's rights, benefits, and privileges under Federal programs . . . [5 U.S. C 552a(e)(2)] [and]

. . . maintain no record describing how any individual exercises rights guaranteed by the First Amendment unless expressly authorized by statute or by the individual about whom the record is maintained or unless pertinent to and within the scope of an authorized law enforcement activity. . . . [5 U.S. C 552a(e)(7)]

In addition, Section 7 of the Act forbids

any Federal, State, or local government agency to deny to any individual any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual's refusal to disclose his Social Security number

and further requires that

any Federal, State, or local government agency which requests an individual to disclose his Social Security account number shall inform that individual whether that disclosure is mandatory or voluntary, by what statutory or other authority such number is solicited, and what uses will be made of it.

None of these several collection requirements and prohibitions appears to have had a profound impact on agency record-keeping practice, mainly because they are either too broadly worded or have been perceived as nothing more than restatements of longstanding agency policy.1 Where they have had an effect, it can often be traced to their interaction with some of the public-reporting requirements discussed in Chapter l.