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subject review. Of the 456 data bank responses which do provide information, over half (53 percent) state that a subject is allowed to review his or her entire file. The most extensive and thorough review is afforded by procedures, such as those employed by the Marines, and a number of other military organizations, which provide subjects with a printout at least once a year. The Air National Guard even requires personnel to review their files once a year.
Because a few of the data banks which do allow subjects to review their files in full fail to notify subjects of their inclusion in the data banks, the subjects' right of review in these cases is, at best, ephemeral. The Dun & Bradstreet List maintained by the Appalachian Regional Commission is an example of such a file.
An additional 14 percent of the 456 data bank responses which provide information about subject review allow subjects to review selected data in their files. This appears to be the standard procedure with regard to the personnel files maintained by most of the agencies.
Roughly one-third of the data bank responses state that subjects are not allowed to review their own files. The various intelligence data banks, such as the Department of Justice's Organized Crime Information System and the Drug Enforcement Administration Addict Files, follow such a practice. A variety of additional files, such as the National Defense Executive Reserve maintained by the Department of Commerce, also do not allow subjects to review their files.
In general, the number of data banks which do provide subjects with some form of notice (58 percent) and some opportunity for review (67 percent) is greater than was expected. There are some indications that changes are being made toward affording more subjects of more data banks realistic opportunities to find out what information about them is maintained in Federal data banks. For example after the subcommittee's survey which brought the matter to the attention of the White House, the White House has recently decided to notify subjects of the Presidential Appointees and Talent Bank data banks and to give them the opportunity to review their files. Access by Other Agencies
Once information about an individual is collected by a Federal agency, it is likely that information will be fairly readily passed on to other Federal, State and local agencies. Table 6 summarizes the survey results regarding access by other agencies to Federal data banks. Approximately 8 percent of the 544 data bank responses analyzed 83 do not provide any information on access by other agencies. Of the 498 data bank responses which do provide information about access by other agencies, just over 60 percent report that other agencies have some degree of access to information about individuals stored in the data bank. In some cases, such as the Defense Supply Agency's Central Index File regarding security clearances, the agency maintains the data bank at least in part for the benefit of “User Agencies.” For the Defense Supply Agency file, “User Agencies” include the General Services Administration, the Small Business Administration, the National Science Foundation and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Health, Education, and Welfare, as well as various subdivisions of the Department of Defense.
83 See footnote p. 35.
Over a quarter of the 498 data banks responses which provide information on access by other agencies report direct access either by routine distribution of data or by computer interface. The personnel files on Federal employees are typical of files routinely distributed to other agencies. A Federal Trade Commission Interpretation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which concludes that Civil Service Commission files on Federal employment are not subject to the Act, flatly states:
In the course of its operations the U.S. Civil Service Commission collects and files data concerning current and potential employees of the Federal Government. This data may include commentary on such matters the subject's character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living, and the information is routinely transmitted to various branches of the Government. -16 C.F.R.
$ 600.6(a). The Securities and Exchange Commission's Name and Relationship System also routinely distributes information, mostly derogatory, to other agencies.
Only ten data banks (2 percent of the 498 providing information) allow direct automated access by computer interface. These ten include: Four Army administrative data banks, two Department of Justice and three Treasury data banks, and one Office of Emergency Preparedness data bank. For the most part these are law enforcement oriented systems that link up with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's large NCIC system. The Office of Emergency Preparedness is unique in that it is used exclusively by another agency, namely the White House.84 The Office of Emergency Preparedness itself does not have access.
An additional 19 percent of the data bank responses state that these data banks provide information about individuals to other agencies on request. Of the data banks in this category the Department of Agriculture's Commodity Exchange Authority data bank is unique in operating under an express legislative mandate to make its findings available to other agencies on request.
Various other data banks (12 percent of the 498 reporting) allow other agencies access to information about individuals in accordance with agency procedures. A few agencies, such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, cite the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 522, despite the Act's express concern with the dissemination of information to the public. These agencies apparently treat another agency as if it were a member of the general public. Others, such as the National Driver Register maintained by the Department of Transportation, are required by Federal statute only to disseminate information to driver licensing agencies in connection with an individual's application for a driver's license.
Much more troublesome are those agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Selective Service System which pledge confidentiality to subjects who are required by law to furnish information, but nevertheless allow dissemination to other agencies under established procedures. The Selective Service admits disseminating draft registrants' data to such other agencies as the State Depart
$4 This Presidential Appointees data bank was, subsequent to the Office of Emergency Preparedness response, transferred to the General Services Administration.
ment, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Veterans Administration, the Civil Service Commission and Naval Intelligence. Dissemination is apparently at the discretion of the Director of the Selective Service.
A few agencies (3 percent) replied that certain data banks are public information. For example, responses for eight of the Federal Communications Commission's data banks make this reply. Public Access
For the most part members of the general public (persons and entities other than subjects and Government agencies) are not allowed access to most of the 544 data banks analyzed in this survey. 85 As Table 7 indicates, over half (52 percent) of the 468 data bank responses which provide information about public access report that persons other than subjects and Government agencies are not allowed access to these files.
Relatively few, only about 11 percent of the 468 data bank responses providing information, report that the information was public information.” Civil Service Commission's Voting Rights - List of Eligibles is required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to be made public. Similarly the Commerce Department makes publicly available statistical reports from the Decennial Census and Seafaring Personnel data banks.
In addition, information from a very few data banks (3 percent of the 468 responses providing information) is made available to the public upon request. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts appears to provide statistical data to researchers on this basis. The U.S. Coast Guard permits public access to the Boating Registration and Motorboat Accident systems, and allows relatives of subjects to see parts of the Merchant Seaman Locator file. The Office of Economic Opportunity allows public access to two of its systems.
Of the 226 data bank responses which report that information is made available to persons other than subjects and Government agencies, most (70 percent) stated that the public is granted access in accordance with agency procedures or the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 522). Relevant portions of the Freedom of Information Act are set forth in the margin. 86 86 See footnote 81 above. 86 5 U.S.C. $ 552. Public information; agency rules, opinions, orders, records, and proceedings. (a) Each agency shall make available to the public information as follows: *
* (3) each agency, on request for identifiable records made in accordance with published rules stating the time, place, fees to the extent authorized by statute, and procedure to be followed, shall make the records promptly available to any person.
(b) This section does not apply to matters that are-
(1) specifically required by Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of the national defense or foreign policy;.
(2) related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency;
(4) trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential;
(5) inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency;
(6) personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
(7) investigatory files compiled for law enforcement purposes except to the extent available by law to a party other than an agency;
(8) contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions; (c) This section does not authorize withholding of information or limit the availability of records to the public, except as specifically stated in this section. This section is not authority to withhold information from Congress.
As has been noted previously, the Freedom of Information Act (also cited as the Public Information Act and the Administrative Procedure Act) is frequently cited by Federal agencies both for allowing public access to Government information and for withholding information. In addition, many agencies have internal procedures and regulations governing the disclosure of information to the public. For example, the Veterans Administration has extensive regulations governing disclosure of data about individuals. But elaborate regulations do not necessarily safeguard private information. The Veterans Administration releases a great deal of personal data on individuals upon a simple finding of a “useful purpose.” Similarly, the Department of Labor releases personal information from the Employment Security Automated Reporting System and the Unemployment Insurance Program data banks for “beneficial purposes.” The Selective Service System says that it "honor[s] registrants' written authority" to disclose Selective Service files, for example, to prospective employers.
For the most part, however, personal information in Federal data banks is much less readily available to the general public than was anticipated when the survey was initiated. Security Precautions
The security of Federal data banks is a matter of considerable concern both to subject individuals and to the agencies which maintain the data systems. As is summarized in Table 8, of the 544 data bank responses analyzed 87 471 (or 87 percent) provided information about security precautions. Almost 95 percent of these 471 data bank responses stated that the agencies take some kind of precautions to secure their data systems against unauthorized access.
Over 5 percent of the data bank responses providing information about security precautions replied that the respective agencies employ no security arrangements for these data banks. Among these data banks are a fairly large number of the Army Statistical and Administrative systems. Of the responses from the 68 representative Army Statistical and Administrative data banks, 13 state flatly that there are no security precautions for these data banks. When the two responses which failed or refused 88 to answer the question are added to this number, fully 22 percent of the Army Statistical and Administrative data banks are unable to point to any security arrangements. Other data banks lacking security precautions are the Department of Commerce's Seafaring Personnel and Uniform ADP Personnel systems, as well as the Appalachian Regional Commission's mailing lists.
As was expected, the most common security arrangement is physical security, usually coupled with restrictions on access to authorized personnel. Over half (53 percent) of the data bank responses providing information cited some form of physical security, including the response for one Army system which states that the system's data is secured in an "unlock file.” The degrees of physical security and restricted access vary a great deal. Ăt one extreme of very tight security are the White House Central Files which are electronically coded and kept in locked, restricted access vaults under constant Secret Service surveillance 89 The Pentagon Parking System is also 87 See footnote 81 above. 88 The response for one highly sensitive Army system, the Narcotic Offender File, states that the subcommittee's question regarding security
precautions was “not applicable.” 89 These files have been classified in Table 8 under "security devices built into system" to reflect the highest degree of sophisticated security arrangements
kept under very tight security--the data is both classified and locked up. It is surprising to find that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's Section 8 and 19 files, containing much derogatory information about individuals, are kept only in ordinary locked file cabinets. At the least secure extreme of the range of physical security arrangements is the Air Force Aeronautical Chart and Information Center Upward Mobility File which is "kept secure in the career development counselor's desk.”
A little over a quarter (26 percent) of the data bank responses providing information about security precautions cite various agency procedures and restrictions on access to authorized personnel. Typical of these are the Environmental Protection Agency's four data banks for which "no devices per se exist." These files are protected from unauthorized access by the fact that only a limited number of Environmental Protection Agency personnel "have the knowledge required to operate the systems.” Similarly, the responses for five of the ACTION data banks vaguely state that "file security is controlled by Data Services through normal procedures.'
The most sophisticated security devices are those electronically built into computerized systems. Over 15 percent of the data bank responses providing information state that the agencies employ such electronic devices for their data banks. Among these is the Department of Agriculture's proposed Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service data bank which is designed to employ "provisions in the data management software for screening requests. The huge (33,840,884 records) Veterans Administration Beneficiary Identification and Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) also employs sophisticated electronic security devices and codes built into the system's software. Over two-thirds of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare data banks employ electronic security devices of varying degrees of sophistication built into such systems as the Migrant Student Transfer System.
In some cases the actual security of the data banks is difficult to judge. The sophisticated Treasury Enforcement Communications System, for example, is accessed by approximately 500 remote terminals around the country. Unauthorized access to any of these 500 terminals would jeopardize the security of the entire system. The security of the Veterans Administration's BIRLS system is subject to similar reservations. The General Service Administration's proposed national data bank, FEDNET, would pose enormous security problems, since the number of remote terminals would number in the thousands.
One intriguing solution to the data bank security problem is suggested by the Department of Defense Installation and Logistics Branch's Housing Referral Office data bank-data is destroyed after the house-hunting purpose for which it was collected is ended. In other words, if less personal data about individuals were stored in fewer data banks, the need for cumbersome and expensive security precautions would be substantially reduced.