WASHINGTON, D.C. - On October 18, 2011, U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, introduced the Privacy Act Modernization for the Information Age Act of 2011 to amend the Privacy Act of 1974 and other privacy related laws to modernize them for the information age. 

Senator Akaka said:  "With the expansion of technology and the proliferation of personal information held by government agencies, the risk of losing or misusing information has grown exponentially.  There have been few updates to the Privacy Act of 1974, leaving the law more applicable to file cabinets and clunky 30-year-old databases than the modern information technology systems in use today.  Moreover, increased security needs over the last 10 years have created pressure on agencies to use existing personal information in new ways.  The growth in the business of buying and selling individuals' information also raises new questions about the extent to which the Privacy Act applies to these sources of data on individuals used by the government."

The bill addresses issues identified by Senator Akaka's oversight work on privacy through hearings and reports from the Government Accountability Office.  Key provisions of the legislation would:

  • Create stronger privacy leadership at the Office of Management and Budget and extend additional authority to privacy officers to investigate possible violations of privacy laws.
  • Simplify and modernize key definitions in the Privacy Act which have led to confusion and inconsistent application of the Privacy Act. 
  • Tighten requirements for agency control and maintenance of personal information to ensure that use is authorized and that personally identifiable information is not misused. 
  • Provide better documentation of systems containing personal information, and create a centralized website to bring public notices describing these systems and other important privacy related information together.
  • Strengthen civil and criminal penalties for improper disclosure of information by reversing the Supreme Court's decision in Doe. v. Chao. 
  • Add penalties for using private agency records for commercial gain and upgrade the penalty for obtaining records from an agency under false pretenses to a felony.

Senator Akaka's full introductory statement is available here: LINK


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Jesse Broder Van Dyke