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Privacy Act Reference Guide
The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. § 552a) is a federal law that establishes a code of fair information practices governing the collection, maintenance, use and dissemination of personally identifiable information about individuals that an agency maintains in a systems of records. A system of records is a group of records an agency controls from which the agency retrieves information by a unique identifier like a person’s name or social security number. The Privacy Act balances the government’s need to maintain information about individuals with the right of individuals to be protected against unwarranted invasions of their privacy.
Under the Privacy Act, United States citizens and legal permanent residents can:
- access and review records about themselves, and
- amend information that is inaccurate, irrelevant, untimely or incomplete that is contained in an agency system of records.
The Privacy Act requires the Government to:
- tell you why information is being collected and how it is going to be used;
- ensures that information is accurate, relevant, complete and up-to-date before disclosing it to others;
- allow you to find out about disclosures of your records to other agencies or persons; and
- provide you with the opportunity to correct inaccuracies in your records.
Our Privacy Act Reference Guide is designed to familiarize you with the specific procedures for making a Privacy Act request to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). The process is neither complicated nor time consuming. Following the guidance will make it more likely that you will receive the information that you are seeking in the shortest amount of time possible.
The formal rules for making Privacy Act requests to USTR are in our implementing regulation, 15 C.F.R. Part 2004, Subpart C. In most cases this Reference Guide should provide you with all of the basic information that you will need to submit a request.
What are the USTR Privacy Act System of Records Notices (SORNs)?
A system of records is a group of records we control from which we retrieve information by a unique identifier like your name or social security number. The current USTR SORNs are:
- USTR-1 Dispute Settlement Panelists Roster.
- USTR-2 Trade Advisory Committee Members and Applicants.
- USTR-3 Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Records.
For more information about our SORNs click here.
How do I make a Privacy Act request?
You can make a Privacy Act request on your own behalf for records or information about you. You also can make a request on behalf of another individual as the parent or guardian of a minor, or as the guardian of someone determined by a court to be incompetent. You may request access to another individual's record or information if you have that individual's written consent, unless other conditions of disclosure apply
Where do I send the request? To make a Privacy Act request, you should write directly to our Privacy Act Office. Heightened security may delay mail delivery. To avoid delays, we strongly suggest that you email your request to PRIVACY@ustr.eop.gov. Our mailing address is: Privacy Act Office, Office of the US Trade Representative, Anacostia Naval Annex, Building 410/Door 123, 250 Murray Lane SW, Washington DC 20509. To ensure that the Privacy Act Office receives your request without delay, you should include the notation ‘‘Privacy Act Request’’ in the subject line of your email or on the front of your envelope and also at the beginning of your request.
Security concerns. To protect USTR computer systems, we will not open attachments to emailed requests - you must include your request within the body of the email. We will not process email attachments.
What should I include? There is no special form or format for a request. You must describe the record that you seek in enough detail to enable the Privacy Act Office to locate the system of records containing the record with a reasonable amount of effort. Include specific information about each record sought, such as the time period in which you believe it was compiled, the name or identifying number of each system of records in which you believe it is kept, and the date, title or name, author, recipient, or subject matter of the record. As a general rule, the more specific you are about the record that you seek, the more likely we will be able to locate it in response to your request.
You can include the amount of fees you are willing to pay and also specify the format in which you wish to receive the records. You must provide contact information such as your phone number, email address, and mailing address, so we can communicate with you about your request. If we cannot contact you, or you do not respond within 30 calendar days to our requests for clarification, we will close your request.
If a request does not provide sufficient specific descriptive information for us to reasonably ascertain exactly which records you are requesting and to locate them, our response may be delayed or we may be unable to provide the records.
How do I request amendment or correction of a record? If you are requesting an amendment or correction of a USTR record, you must identify each particular record in question and the system of records in which the record is located, describe the amendment or correction that you seek, and state why you believe that the record is not accurate, relevant, timely or complete. You may submit any documentation that you think would be helpful, including an annotated copy of the record.
How do I request an accounting of record disclosures? If you are requesting an accounting of disclosures made by USTR to another person, organization or Federal agency, you must identify each particular record in question. An accounting generally includes the date, nature and purpose of each disclosure, as well as the name and address of the person, organization, or Federal agency to which the disclosure was made.
You must verify your identity. When making a Privacy Act request, you must verify your identity to protect your privacy or the privacy of the individual on whose behalf you are acting. If you make a Privacy Act request and you do not follow these identity verification procedures, we cannot process your request.
To verify your own identity, you must state your full name, current address, and date and place of birth. In order to help identify and locate the records, you also may, at your option, include your Social Security number. To certify your own identity, you must provide an unsworn statement signed under penalty of perjury stating that you are the person who you say you are. To fulfill this requirement, you must include the following statement just before the signature on your request letter: “I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on [date].”
If you make a request as the parent or guardian of a minor, or as the guardian of someone determined by a court to be incompetent, for access records or information about that individual, you must: (1) identify the individual who is the subject of the record, by stating the individual's name, current address and date and place of birth, and, at your option, the Social Security number of the individual; (2) certify your own identity; (3) and show that you are the parent or guardian of the individual, which you may prove by providing a copy of the individual’s birth certificate showing your parentage or a court order establishing your guardianship and are acting on their behalf.
What happens after you submit a request? How long will it take for USTR to respond?
We will search to determine if the requested records exist in a system of records USTR owns or controls. If your request is complete and all identities are verified, we will respond to you in writing within 20 days after we receive your request. We may extend the response time in unusual circumstances, such as the need to consult with another agency about a record or to retrieve a record shipped offsite for storage.
What can I expect in response to my request?
Our written response will include our determination whether to grant or deny your request in whole or in part, a brief explanation of the reasons for the determination, and the amount of the fee charged, if any. If you requested access to records, we will make the records, if any, available to you. If you requested amendment or correction of a record, the response will describe any amendments or corrections made and advise you of your right to obtain a copy of the amended or corrected record.
What can I do if I am dissatisfied with USTR’s response?
You can appeal any adverse determination in writing to our Privacy Act Appeals Committee within 30 calendar days after the date of our response. Adverse determinations include any response that: withholds any requested record in whole or in part; denies a request to amend or correct a record in whole or in part; declines to provide an accounting of disclosures; advises that a requested record does not exist or cannot be located; finds that what you requested is not a record subject to the Privacy Act; or advises on any disputed fee matter.
There is no specific form or particular language needed to file an administrative appeal. You should specify the records that are the subject of your appeal and explain why the Committee should sustain the appeal.
To avoid delays caused by heighted security, we strongly suggest that you email any appeal to PRIVACY@ustr.eop.gov. Our mailing address is: Privacy Act Office, Office of the US Trade Representative, Anacostia Naval Annex, Building 410/Door 123, 250 Murray Lane SW, Washington DC 20509. To make sure that the Privacy Act Office receives your appeal without delay, you should include the notation “Privacy Act Appeal" in the subject line of your email or on the front of your envelope and also at the beginning of your appeal.
Within 30 calendar days, the Appeals Committee will determine whether to grant or deny your appeal in whole or in part, will explain the reasons for the determination, and provide information about the Privacy Act provisions for court review of the determination.
If your appeal concerned a request for an amendment or correction to a record and we deny it in whole or in part, we will advise you of your right to file a statement of disagreement, which is a concise written statement in which you clearly identify each part of any record that you dispute and explain your reason(s) for disagreeing with our denial in whole or in part of your appeal requesting amendment or correction. We will provide your statement and our reasons for the denial whenever the record is subsequently disclosed.
Will there be any costs?
There is no initial fee required to submit a Privacy Act request, but the Act allows us to charge a fee to process your request in certain circumstances. For most requests, we do not charge a fee. In your request letter, you can specify the amount of fees you are willing to pay. We will not exceed the specified limit without your written agreement.
We will charge a fee for duplication of a record under the Privacy Act in the same way we charge for duplication of records under the Freedom of Information Act. There are no fees to search for or review records requested under the Privacy Act.
We will not assess a fee if it is $25 or less. We will contact you if we estimate that the fee will be more than $25 and ask you to agree in writing to pay the estimated fees and will suspend processing your request until you do so. If the estimated fee is more than $250 or you failed to pay a properly assessed FOIA or Privacy Act fee in the past, we may ask you to prepay all or part of the estimated fee before we process your request.
DUPLICATION: If we provide photocopies (either a hard copy or the electronic equivalent), we will make one copy per request at the cost of $.10 per page. For copies of records produced on tapes, disks or other media, we will charge the direct costs of producing the copy, including operator time. Where we must scan paper documents in order to comply with your preference to receive the records in an electronic format, we will charge you the direct costs associated with scanning those materials.:
If you request special services, we will charge the following fees:
CD $1.00 each
transcription of audio tapes $4.50 per page
certification, seal and attestation $5.00 per document
express delivery actual cost
fax transmission (long distance) long distance charge plus $.25 per page
fax transmission (local) $.25 per call plus $.25 per page
Who is in the USTR Privacy Act Office?
Senior Agency Official for Privacy & Chief Privacy Officer, Janice Kaye
Privacy Act Officers/Attorneys, Melissa Keppel and Monique Ricker
Privacy Act Appeals Official, Fred Ames