A CITIZEN'S GUIDE ON USING THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
AND THE PRIVACY ACT OF 1974 TO REQUEST GOVERNMENT RECORDS
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VII. B. THE COMPUTER MATCHING AND PRIVACY PROTECTION ACT
The Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988 amended the Privacy Act by adding new provisions regulating the use of computer matching. Records used during the conduct of a matching program are subject to an additional set of requirements.
Computer matching is the computerized comparison of information about individuals for the purpose of determining eligibility for Federal benefit programs. A matching program can be subject to the requirements of the Computer Matching Act if records from a Privacy Act system of records are used during the program. If Federal Privacy Act records are matched against State or local records, then the State or local matching program can be subject to the new matching requirements.
In general, matching programs involving Federal records must be conducted under a matching agreement between the source and recipient agencies. The matching agreement describes the purpose and procedures of the matching and establishes protections for matching records. The agreement is subject to review and approval by a Data Integrity Board. Each Federal agency involved in a matching activity must establish a Data Integrity Board.
For an individual seeking access to or correction of records, the computer matching legislation provides no special access rights. If matching records are Federal records, then the access and correction provisions of the Privacy Act apply. There is no general right of access or correction for matching records of State and local agencies. It is possible that rights are available under State or local laws. There is, however, a requirement that an individual be notified of agency findings prior to the taking of any adverse action as a result of a computer matching program. An individual must also be given an opportunity to contest such findings. The notice and opportunity-to-contest provisions apply to matching records whether the matching was done by the Federal Government or by a State or local government. Section 7201 of Public Law 101-508 modified the due process notice requirement to permit the use of statutory or regulatory notice periods.
The matching provisions also require that any agency-- Federal or non-Federal--involved in computer matching must independently verify information used to take adverse action against an individual. This requirement was included in order to protect individuals from arbitrary or unjustified denials of benefits. Independent verification includes independent investigation and confirmation of information. Public Law 101- 508 also modified the independent verification requirement in circumstances in which it was unnecessary.
Most of the provisions of the Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988 were originally scheduled to become effective in July 1989. Public Law 101-56 delayed the effective date for most matching programs until January 1, 1990.