About the Office
Defense Privacy Board Advisory Opinions
THE PRIVACY ACT AND MINORS
The Privacy Act applies to any "individual" which is defined as "a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence." 5 U.S.C. § 552a(a)(2). With respect to any rights granted the individual, no restriction is imposed on the basis of age; therefore, minors have the same rights and protections under the Privacy Act as do adults.
The Privacy Act provides that "the parent of any minor . . . may act on behalf of the individual." 5 U.S.C. § 552a(h). This subsection ensures that minors have a means of exercising their rights under the Privacy Act. Office of Management and Budget Privacy Act Guidelines (OMB Guidelines), 40 Fed. Reg. 28949, 28970 (July 9, 1975). It does not preclude minors from exercising rights on their own behalf, independent of any parental exercise. Parental exercise of the minor's Privacy Act rights is discretionary. A Department of Defense (DoD) component may permit parental exercise of a minor's Privacy Act rights at its discretion, but the parent has no absolute right to exercise the minor's rights absent a court order or the minor's consent. See OMB Guidelines, 40 Fed. Reg. 56741, 56742 (December 4,1975). Further, the parent exercising a minor's rights under the Privacy Act must be doing so on behalf of the minor and not merely for the parent's benefit. DePlanche v. Califano, 549 F. Supp. 685 (W.D. Mich. 1982).
The age at which an individual is no longer a minor becomes crucial when an agency must determine whether a parent may exercise the individual's Privacy Act rights. With respect to records maintained by DoD components, the age of majority is 18 years unless a court order states otherwise or the individual, at an earlier age, marries, enlists in the military, or takes some other action that legally signifies attainment of majority status. Once an individual attains the age of majority, Privacy Act rights based solely on parenthood cease.