About the Office
Defense Privacy Board Advisory Opinions
INFORMATION PERTAINING TO THIRD PARTIES MAY NOT BE PROTECTED BY THE PRIVACY ACT
An individual's record is defined as "information about an individual that is maintained by an agency," and a system of records is "a group of any records from which information is retrieved by the name . . . or other identifying particular assigned to the individual." 5 U.S.C. § 552a(a)(4) and (5), respectively. Since 5 U.S.C. § 552a(e)(1) requires that agencies maintain "only such information about an individual as is relevant and necessary," all information in an individual's record must pertain to him or her. Therefore, when an individual seeks access to or a copy of records under 5 U.S.C. § 552a(d)(1), all records pertaining to him or her in systems of records must be disclosed, with certain exceptions not here germane.
A reference to subject A in a file retrieved only by subject B's identifier would not be available to subject A under the Privacy Act. However, if an indexing capability exists so that the same file also is retrieved by subject A's identifier, then subject A and B, both, would have access to the entire record. See Voelker v. Internal Revenue Service, 646 F.2d 332 (8th Cir. 1981); Office of Management and Budget Privacy Act Guidelines, 40 Fed. Reg. 28949, 28957 (July 9, 1975).