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Privacy Act

Your Rights under the Privacy Act

What is Privacy?

Privacy is the right to be left alone and to control the conditions under which information pertaining to you is collected, used and disseminated.

What is the Privacy Act?

The Privacy Act, passed by Congress in 1974, establishes certain controls over what personal information is collected by the federal government and how it is used. This law guarantees three primary rights:

  • The right to see records about oneself, subject to the Privacy Act's exemptions.
  • The right to amend a nonexempt record if it is inaccurate, irrelevant, untimely, or incomplete.
  • The right to sue the government for violations of the statute, such as permitting unauthorized individuals to read your records.

What Information Can I Request Under the Privacy Act?

The Privacy Act applies only to records about individuals maintained by agencies in the executive branch of the federal government. It applies to these records only if they are in a "system of records," which means they are retrieved by an individual's name, Social Security number, or some other personal identifier. In other words, the Privacy Act does not apply to information about individuals in records that are filed under other subjects, such as organizations or events, unless the agency also indexes and retrieves them by individual names or other personal identifiers.

There are 10 exemptions to the Privacy Act under which an agency can withhold certain kinds of information from you. Examples of exempt records are those containing classified information on national security and those concerning criminal investigations. Another exemption often used by agencies is that which protects information that would identify a confidential source. For example, if an investigator questions a person about your qualifications for federal employment and that person agrees to answer only if his identity is protected, then his name or any information that would identify him can be withheld. Records can also be used anonymously for statistical purposes. All 10 exemptions are specified in the Privacy Act. If you are interested in more details, you should read the Privacy Act in its entirety.

How Does the Privacy Act Affect Me on the DOT’s Web site?

While you are visiting the DOT’s Web site, we will automatically collect information about your visit that does not identify you personally. We can tell the computer, browser, and web service you are using. We also know the date, time, and pages you visit. Collecting this information helps us design the site to suit your needs. In the event of a known security or virus threat, we may collect information on the web content you view.

Some of your additional rights under the Privacy Act include:

  • A clear indication of whether information that a page requests of you is voluntary or mandatory.
  • A clear indication of how to grant your consent when asked for information, such as with a check box next to the words “I Agree” or some other indication that you are willingly providing information.
  • What specific personal information, such as your name or social security number, will be stored in a system of records.
  • Notification that your information might be shared with authorized law enforcement or the Department of Homeland Security.

Why the DOT Collects Information from You

Our principal purpose for collecting personal information online is to provide you with what you need and want, address security and virus concerns, and to ease the use of our website.

Additional reasons we collect information include:

  • Respond to your complaints
  • Reply to your “feedback comments”
  • Manage your access to restricted areas of the website
  • Fulfill requests for reports and other similar information
  • Address security or virus threats
  • Register you for a member account

Sharing Your Information

We may share personally identifiable information you provide to us online with representatives within DOT’s Operating Administrations and related entities, other federal government agencies, or other named representatives as needed to speed your request or transaction. In a government-wide effort to combat security and virus threats, we may share some information we collect automatically, such as IP address, with other federal government agencies.

You Have the Right to Access Your Information

If DOT has any records about you on file, you have a right to know about them. You can access and verify this information by following the Department’s Disclosure Procedures.