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Home > Privacy and Government > Privacy Law Governing the Public Sector > The Privacy Act > The Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act

The Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act

The Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988 (5 U.S.C. 552a(o) et seq.) amended the Privacy Act by describing the manner in which computer matching involving Federal agencies could be performed and by adding certain protections for individuals applying for and receiving Federal benefits.

As amended by the Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act, the Privacy Act requires Federal agencies involved in computer matching programs to:

  1. Negotiate written agreements with the other agency or agencies participating in the matching programs;
  2. Obtain the relevant Data Integrity Boards' approval of the match agreements;
  3. Furnish detailed reports about matching programs to Congress and OMB;
  4. Notify applicants and beneficiaries that their records are subject to matching; and
  5. Verify match findings before reducing, suspending, terminating, or denying an individual's benefits or payments.
Though the Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act certainly involves detailed procedures, including obscure 'Data Integrity Boards,' it is probably most notable for the fact that it institutionalizes sharing of data among federal government agencies. Information collected for one purpose may be used for different purposes by a different federal agency. Though integrity and fairness seem assured by the Act, privacy is not.


Memorandum No. M-01-05, Guidance on Inter-Agency Sharing of Personal Data - Protecting Personal Privacy, Jacob J. Lew, Director, Office of Management and Budget (December 20, 2000)

Notice of Computer Matching Program, Social Security Administration (November 16, 2000)

Comments? (Subject: FederalMatching)

[updated 03/07/01]

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