Report to the Congress on the Feasibility of Creating and Maintaining a National Registry of Child Maltreatment Perpetrators. What would be the Privacy Act implications of the maintenance of a national registry of child maltreatment perpetrators?


The Privacy Act imposes certain obligations on federal agencies that maintain "systems of records" – that is, records retrieved by an individual identifier. The Privacy Act is based on a Code of Fair Information Principles and bestows rights on individuals whose data is collected and stored. A national registry of child maltreatment perpetrators would qualify as a system of records and be covered by the Privacy Act.

The Privacy Act permits individuals to request access to records about themselves, and to make requests for amendment in the case that records are not accurate, relevant, timely, or complete. Individuals also have rights of appeal, and the opportunity to contest the content of the record by adding a statement into the record. The Privacy Act also requires that before an agency disseminates a record, it must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the records are accurate, timely, relevant, and complete. This requirement may be difficult to implement in the case of a national registry of child maltreatment perpetrators, since the origin of the records is not with the federal agency but with individual states.

Under the Privacy Act, agencies must limit the information they collect to that which is relevant and necessary to their mission. Depending on what states send to the Federal Government, this could entail reviewing and editing each record to ensure it meets certain standards, or, alternatively, working with the states to ensure that they only send the data approved for inclusion in the Registry.

The agency administering the registry would also be required by the Privacy Act to establish appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to ensure the security and confidentiality of the records and to protect against anticipated threats. A Federal Register notice would need to be published by the administering agency describing the types of individuals covered, the types of records in the system, the disclosures that could be made of the records, the security provisions made for the data, whether the records were subject to any exemptions, and the retention period of the records in accordance with a records schedule approved by the National Archives and Records Administration. That Federal Register notice would include a notice of "routine uses"—disclosures outside of the agency (e.g. to states, employers, law enforcement, the courts) that can be anticipated as part of the running of the program. In order to ensure that entities receiving information under a routine use were appropriate recipients, a regime would have to be devised to ensure that users of the system were making inquiries for a specific allowable purpose. This might include registration, or certification at the time of inquiry, or a similar regime. Civil and criminal liabilities apply to agency failures to comply with the Privacy Act. The administering agency would also be subject to private rights of action as individuals whose information would be stored in the Registry would have the right to sue the agency for violation of any of the requirements of the Privacy Act.

If the data were used to make determinations about an individual's eligibility for federally funded benefits or loans, the Registry would be subject to the Computer Matching Act and Privacy Protection Act of 1988, requiring individual agreements to be negotiated with each state a minimum of every 18 months regarding the exchange of data, and requiring an agency to use independent verification before denying or suspending individual benefits or denying or suspending a loan.

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"ReportToCongress.pdf" (pdf, 432.1Kb)

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