OVERVIEW OF THE PRIVACY ACT OF 1974

ACCOUNTING OF CERTAIN DISCLOSURES

(1) Each agency, with respect to each system of records under its control, must keep a record of the date, nature, and purpose of each disclosure of a record to any person or to another agency under subsection (b) and the name and address of the person or agency to whom the disclosure is made. See 5 U.S.C.  552a(c)(1). An accounting need not be kept of intra-agency disclosures (5 U.S.C.  552a(b)(1)) or FOIA disclosures (5 U.S.C.  552a(b)(2)). See 5 U.S.C.  552a(c)(1).

(2) This accounting of disclosures must be kept for five years or the life of the record, whichever is longer, after the disclosure for which the accounting is made. See 5 U.S.C.  552a(c)(2).

(3) Except for disclosures made under subsection (b)(7), an in-dividual is entitled, upon request, to get access to this accounting of disclosures of his record. See 5 U.S.C.  552a(c)(3).

(4) An agency must inform any person or other agency about any correction or notation of dispute made by the agency in accordance with subsection (d) of any record that has been disclosed to the person or agency if an accounting of the disclosure was made. See 5 U.S.C.  552a(c)(4).

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The language of subsection (c)(1) explicitly excepts both intra-agency "need to know" disclosures and FOIA disclosures from its coverage. See, e.g., Quinn v. United States Navy, No. 94-56067, 1995 WL 341513, at *1 (9th Cir. June 8, 1995) (only disclosure of records was within Navy and thus was exempt from accounting requirements); Clarkson v. IRS, 811 F.2d 1396, 1397-98 (11th Cir. 1987) (per curiam) (IRS's internal disclosure of records to its criminal investigation units does not require accounting).

It is important to recognize that subsection (c)(3) grants individuals a right of access similar to the access right provided by subsection (d)(1). See Standley v. Department of Justice, 835 F.2d 216, 219 (9th Cir. 1987) (plaintiff entitled to gain access to list, compiled by U.S. Attorney, of persons in IRS to whom disclosures of grand jury materials about plaintiff were made); Ray v. United States Dep't of Justice, 558 F. Supp. 226, 228 (D.D.C. 1982) (addresses of private persons who requested plaintiff's records required to be released to plaintiff notwithstanding that "concern about possible harrassment [sic] of these individuals may be legitimate"), aff'd, 720 F.2d 216 (D.C. Cir. 1983) (unpublished table decision); cf. Quinn, 1995 WL 341513, at *1 (no records to disclose in response to request for accounting because there were no disclosures that required accounting).

Of course, it should not be overlooked that certain Privacy Act exemptions--5 U.S.C.  552a(j) and (k)--are potentially available to shield an "accounting of disclosures" record from release to the subject thereof under subsection (c)(3). See Standley, 835 F.2d at 219 (remanding case for consideration of whether exemptions are applicable); Mittleman v. United States Dep't of the Treasury, 919 F. Supp. 461, 469 (D.D.C. 1995) (finding that "application of exemption (k)(2) . . . is valid" and that Department of Treasury Inspector General's "General Allegations and Investigative Records System" is exempt "because, inter alia, application of the accounting-of-disclosures provision . . . would alert the subject to the existence of an investigation, possibly resulting in hindrance of an investigation"), aff'd in part & remanded in part on other grounds, 104 F.3d 410 (D.C. Cir. 1997); Bagley v. FBI, No. 88-4075, slip op. at 2-4 (N.D. Iowa Aug. 28, 1989) (applying subsection (j)(2)); see also Hart v. FBI, No. 94 C 6010, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4542, at *6 n.1 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 7, 1995) (noting exemption of FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division Records System), aff'd, 91 F.3d 146 (7th Cir. 1996) (unpublished table decision).

For a further discussion of this provision, see OMB Guidelines, 40 Fed. Reg. 28,948, 28,955-56 (1975).


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