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Access to Records Under The Privacy Act

General Information About the Privacy Act of 1974

The Privacy Act is one of the key laws governing the protection of information about individuals. Under the Privacy Act, which only applies to federal agencies, BPA must limit the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personal information.

Unlike the FOIA, which provides the same access to agency records for everyone, the Privacy Act provides additional access to records about yourself when those records are contained in a Privacy Act System of Records (SOR). In certain circumstances, guardians and authorized representatives may also request records about you under the Privacy Act.

Privacy Act Records

Privacy Act Requests and FOIA

Exemptions

Filing Privacy Act Requests

Response Time

Fees

Administrative Appeals

Third-Party Access to Your Privacy Act Records

Privacy Act Records

Privacy Act records are records about individuals that are regularly retrieved by a personal identifier, such as a name or a unique identification number. Most of BPA’s Privacy Act records concern employees, and include, for instance, personnel records, official government travel records, and training records.

Federal agencies are required to organize such records into Privacy Act Systems of Records, and to inform individuals about the maintenance of the records through Privacy Act System of Records Notices published in the Federal Register. For the purposes of the Privacy Act, a “system” is defined as a group or category of records. Records in the same system may be stored in a variety of different places or formats. You can find a complete list of Systems of Records used by BPA here.

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Privacy Act Requests and FOIA

When you request records under the Privacy Act, we process your request under both the Privacy Act and the FOIA. Some records that are about individuals are not part of Privacy Act Systems of Records and are therefore not available under the Privacy Act. For instance, although they may be about individuals, e-mails are usually not part of a Privacy Act System of Records. These records may instead be available under the FOIA. Processing your request using both statutes assures that you receive maximum disclosure of responsive records.

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Exemptions

The Privacy Act authorizes a federal agency to redact a very limited amount of information from Privacy Act records before it releases the records to you. BPA may redact the following kinds of information:

  • Information compiled in reasonable anticipation of a civil action or proceeding
  • Information related to non-criminal law enforcement matters
  • Investigatory information used to determine eligibility or suitability for federal civilian employment

Other exemptions to the Privacy Act, including an exemption for classified information, rarely apply to BPA records.

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Filing Privacy Act Requests

At BPA, the FOIA team processes both FOIA and Privacy Act requests.

Submit your request by:

Filing out an electronic form at http://www.bpa.gov/news/FOIA/Pages/RequestForm.aspx

Faxing it to (503) 230-4619

Mailing it to:
Christopher M. Frost, FOIA Officer
Mail Stop CGC-7
Bonneville Power Administration
P.O. Box 3621
Portland, OR 97208

Your request must include:

  • A statement that the request is made pursuant to the Privacy Act.
  • A detailed description of the nature of the record sought. This may include:
    • The date of the records, or the time period in which the record was created
    • The System of Records that includes the records you are seeking
    • Other information that may help us locate the records, including dates of employment, maiden name, account numbers or job vacancy numbers.
  • Information verifying your identity
    • Your information should include DOE F 531, the Department of Energy's Privacy Act Request Form. If you cannot print a copy of the form, please contact this office, and we will mail a copy to you. You will be asked to provide copies of two documents containing your name or signature, including one that includes current address and date of birth (driver’s license, passport, etc.).
    • Whenever possible, the BPA FOIA Office prefers to verify identity in person by meeting with requesters at or near BPA Headquarters. We will contact you to arrange a short meeting or to arrange a secure method of transmitting identifying documents. To protect your personal information, we do not accept copies of identifying documents by e-mail.

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Response Time

Like FOIA requests, we process Privacy Act requests on a first-in, first-out basis, with complex requests processed in a separate queue to avoid undue delay in responding to simple requests. BPA is required to respond to your request as soon as possible, but not later than 20 days after the receipt of your request. If we are required to retrieve records from archives, review a voluminous amount of records, or consult with other agencies, our office will contact you to inform you of the reasons for delay and the expected date of response.

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Fees

Most Privacy Act requests do not result in any fee to the requester. Fees may be charged for copying Privacy Act records, but not for searching or reviewing records. Paper copies cost $0.10 per page, and the first 100 pages are provided for free. If fees total $15.00 or less, BPA waives the fee and all pages are provided for free.

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Administrative Appeals

Under the Department of Energy’s Privacy Act regulations permit administrative appeals, you may appeal the response to your request within 30 calendar days using the process described in the information about FOIA appeals. If your appeal is denied by the Department of Energy, you may sue BPA in federal court.

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Third-Party Access to Your Privacy Act Records

One of the primary purposes of the Privacy Act is to limit the disclosure of records about individuals. BPA can only disclose Privacy Act records in the following limited circumstances:

  • To BPA or Department of Energy employees who need the record for official business purposes
  • When required under the Freedom of Information Act
  • For routine uses that are (a) specifically identified in the relevant System of Records Notice and (b) compatible with the original purpose for collecting the information
  • For compelling reasons of health or safety
  • For civil or criminal law enforcement, or under the order of a court of competent jurisdiction
  • To the Bureau of the Census, National Archives, Congress, or the Comptroller General
  • In anonymized form, for statistical research or reporting
  • To consumer reporting agencies as required by the Debt Collection Act

If you believe that your Privacy Act records have been disclosed unlawfully, please contact this office immediately at (503) 230-5602. You may sue BPA in federal court for unlawful disclosure.

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