General Information About the Privacy Act of 1974
Privacy Act RecordsPrivacy 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.
Privacy Act Requests and FOIAWhen 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.
ExemptionsThe 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.
Filing Privacy Act Requests
Due to COVID-19, BPA Privacy Act program staff are experiencing significant delays in receiving and processing Privacy Act requests sent by regular mail. We ask that Privacy Act requesters submit their request forms electronically, if possible. Mailed submissions are still accepted but responses will be delayed.
Please encrypt your request form using Entrust or password protect your form (instructions on how to password protect Adobe PDF files) prior to sending your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact the BPA Privacy Act program office at email@example.com if you have questions about the Privacy Act request form.
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, 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.).
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.
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.
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 Appeals section of How to Submit a FOIA Request. If your appeal is denied by the Department of Energy, you may sue BPA in federal court.
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) 872-7740. You may sue BPA in federal court for unlawful disclosure.