Privacy Act of 1974

Privacy Act Introduction

The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. § 552a) establishes a code of fair information practices that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personally identifiable information about individuals.  The purpose of the law is to balance the government’s need to maintain information about individuals with the rights of individuals to be protected against unwarranted invasions of their privacy from the collection and disclosure of these records by federal agencies. 

The Privacy Act provides individuals with a means of access similar to that of the FOIA.  The statutes do overlap, but not entirely.  The FOIA is entirely an access statute; it permits “any person” to seek access to any “agency record” that is not subject to any of its nine exemptions or its three exclusions.  By comparison, the Privacy Act permits only an “individual” to seek access to only his own “record,” and only if that record is maintained by the agency within a “system of records” – i.e., is retrieved by that individual requester’s name or personal identifier – subject to 12 Privacy Act exemptions.  Thus, the primary difference between the FOIA and the access provision of the Privacy Act is in the scope of information accessible under each statute. 

The Privacy Act prohibits disclosure of records without an individual’s written consent unless one of the twelve disclosure exceptions  enumerated in the Act applies. These records are held in a Privacy Act system of records. A notice of any such system is published on DEA’s Privacy System Notices page.

As with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Privacy Act binds only federal agencies, and covers only records in the possession and control of federal agencies.

Who Can Submit a Privacy Act Request?
The Privacy Act allows citizens of the United States (U.S.) or aliens lawfully admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence to request records that are retrievable by name and/or personal identifiers.  The Privacy Act also allows individuals to use a representative to make a request on their behalf.

How to Submit Privacy Act Request
To submit Privacy Act request, you must complete the Privacy Act Request Letter (being drafted) and provide proof of identify via the DOJ 361-Certification of Identity Form. Both the letter and the DOJ-361 must be sent to DEA Headquarters by either:

Option 1:  Email your submission to DEA.FOIA@usdoj.gov
Option 2:  Mail your submission to:
Drug Enforcement Administration
Attn:  FOI/PA Unit (SARF)
8701 Morrissette Drive
Springfield, Virginia  22152
Option 3: Fax your submission to (202) 307-8556

Requesting a Privacy Act Amendment of Correction

What is a Privacy Act Amendment or Correction?
The Privacy Act permits an individual to request an amendment of a DEA record they believe is not accurate, relevant, timely, or complete.  This right of amendment or correction applies only to individuals and information about such individuals. Only factual information about an individual is subject to correction or amendment under this policy.  Records do not qualify for correction or amendment under this policy if the information is: (1) not contained in one of DEA’s systems of records; and (2) the record is exempt from the amendment provision of the Privacy Act (28 C.F.R. § 16.98)  

How to Submit a Privacy Act Amendment or Correction?
To submit a Privacy Act amendment or correction, please write a letter to the DEA explaining why you believe the information in question is not accurate, relevant, timely, or complete.  Identify the System of Records where you believe the information is located. View a complete list of DEA’s Systems of Records).  Please note that a requester bears the burden of proving by the preponderance of the evidence that information is not accurate, relevant, timely, or complete.

Submit your letter using one of the following options:
Option 1:  Email your submission to SARI.Requests@usdoj.gov
Option 2:  Mail your submission to:
Drug Enforcement Administration
Attn:  Investigative Records Unit (SARI)
8701 Morrissette Drive
Springfield, Virginia  22152

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