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The Privacy Act of 1974 (popularly called the Privacy Act) is a federal statute (codified in the U.S. Code at 5 USC §552a) that regulates the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personal information by federal agencies. It is the most comprehensive federal law dealing with privacy. The act was created to address concerns about the effects that the federal government’s collection of personal data had on individual citizens’ privacy rights. It was passed in the same year that the Watergate scandal revealed that federal agencies had illegally investigated and tracked members of the American public and in an era that saw the introduction of computer data–gathering activities by the federal government.

Privacy Protection

The Privacy Act does several things to protect citizens’ privacy. For one, the ...

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