Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974

Legislative History

The entire legislative history of the Privacy Act is contained in a convenient, one-volume compilation.  See House Comm. on Gov’t Operations and Senate Comm. on Gov’t Operations, 94th Cong., 2d Sess., Legislative History of the Privacy Act of 1974 – S. 3418 (Pub. L. No. 93-579) Source Book on Privacy (1976) [hereinafter Source Book], available at http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/pdf/LH_privacy_act-1974.pdf.  The Act was passed in great haste during the final week of the Ninety-Third Congress.  No conference committee was convened to reconcile differences in the bills passed by the House and Senate.  Instead, staffs of the respective committees – led by Senators Ervin and Percy, and Representatives` Moorhead and Erlenborn – prepared a final version of the bill that was ultimately enacted.  The original reports are thus of limited utility in interpreting the final statute; the more reliable legislative history consists of a brief analysis of the compromise amendments – entitled “Analysis of House and Senate Compromise Amendments to the Federal Privacy Act” – prepared by the staffs of the counterpart Senate and House committees and submitted in both the House and Senate in lieu of a conference report.  See 120 Cong. Rec. 40,405-09, 40,881-83 (1974), reprinted in Source Book at 858-68, 987-94, available at http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/pdf/LH_privacy_act-1974.pdf.

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Updated July 16, 2015