The Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. § 552a. Title 5 Government Organizations and Employees) establishes a code of fair information practices that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by Federal agencies. A system of records is defined as a group of records under the control of an agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifier assigned to the individual.
The Privacy Act requires that agencies give the public notice of their systems of records by publication in the Federal Register. The Privacy Act prohibits the disclosure of a record about an individual from a system of records absent the written consent of the individual, unless the disclosure is pursuant to one of twelve statutory exceptions. The Act also provides individuals with a means by which to seek access to and amendment of their records and sets forth various agency record-keeping requirements. (5 U.S.C. § 552a. Privacy Act of 1974.)