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What is the Privacy Act?

The Privacy Act establishes safeguards for the protection of records that the federal government collects and maintains on United States citizens and aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence.  The Privacy Act was enacted to balance the government's need to maintain information about individuals with the rights of individuals to be protected against unwarranted invasions of their privacy stemming from federal agencies’ collection, maintenance, use, and disclosure of personal information about them.  The Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Customs and Border Protection, however, does not limit privacy rights to citizens and lawfully admitted aliens.  Under DHS Privacy Policy Memorandum 2007-1, DHS, as a matter of policy, extends the administrative rights of the Privacy Act, including the rights of access and amendment, to all persons, regardless of citizenship when dealing with mixed systems (systems housing information about both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals).  DHS allows persons, including foreign nationals, to seek access and request amendment under the Privacy Act to certain information maintained in its systems of records. 

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