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Privacy Act of 1974; Implementation of Exemptions

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AGENCY:

Privacy Office, Office of the Secretary, Department of Homeland Security.

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

On July 27, 2006 the Department of Homeland Security published a notice of proposed rulemaking to exempt portions of the Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) system of records from one or more provisions of the Privacy Act because of criminal, civil, and administrative enforcement requirements. No comments were received so this final rule adopts the proposed rule of July 27, 2006, without change.

DATES:

This final rule is effective August 15, 2007.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Claire Miller, Acting US-VISIT Privacy Officer, Washington, DC 20528, by telephone (202) 298-5200, or by facsimile (202) 298-5201.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

On July 27, 2006 the Department of Homeland Security published a notice of proposed rulemaking to exempt portions of the Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) system of records notice from one or more provisions of the Privacy Act because of criminal, civil, and administrative enforcement requirements. This proposed rule would exempt certain records from the access and amendment provisions of law as permitted by the Privacy Act. No comments were received in response to this notice of proposed rulemaking, so this final rule adopts the proposed rule of July 27, 2006, without change.

IDENT is the primary repository of biometric information held by DHS in connection with its several and varied missions and functions, including, but not limited to: The enforcement of civil and criminal laws (including the immigration law); investigations, inquiries, and proceedings thereunder; and national security and intelligence activities. IDENT is a centralized and dynamic DHS-wide biometric database that also contains limited biographic, unique identifiers, and encounter history information needed to place the biometric information in proper context. The information is collected by, on behalf of, in support of, or in cooperation with DHS and its components and may contain personally identifiable information collected by other Federal, State, local, tribal, foreign, or international government agencies.

The Privacy Act requires each agency to publish in the Federal Register a description of the type and character of each system of records that the agency maintains, and the routine uses that are contained in each system in order to make agency recordkeeping practices transparent, to notify individuals regarding the uses to which personally identifiable information is put, and to assist individuals in finding such files within the agency.

The Privacy Act allows Government agencies to exempt certain records from the access and amendment provisions. If an agency claims an exemption, however, it must issue a rulemaking to make clear to the public the reasons why a particular exemption is claimed.

By this rule DHS is claiming exemption from certain requirements of the Privacy Act for IDENT. Some information in IDENT relates to official DHS national security, immigration and border management, and law enforcement activities. These exemptions are needed to protect information relating to DHS activities from disclosure to subjects or others related to these activities. Specifically, the exemptions are required to preclude subjects of these activities from frustrating these processes; to avoid disclosure of activity techniques; to protect the identities and physical safety of confidential informants and of immigration and border management and law enforcement personnel; to ensure DHS's ability to obtain information from third parties and other sources; to protect the privacy of third parties; and to safeguard classified information. Disclosure of information to the subject of the inquiry could also permit the subject to avoid detection or apprehension.

The exemptions are standard law enforcement and national security exemptions exercised by a large number of Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. In appropriate circumstances, where compliance would not appear to interfere with or adversely affect the law enforcement purposes of this system and the overall law enforcement process, the applicable exemptions may be waived.

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List of Subjects in 6 CFR Part 5

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For the reasons stated in the preamble, DHS amends Chapter I of Title 6, Code of Federal Regulations, as follows:

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PART 5—DISCLOSURE OF RECORDS AND INFORMATION

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1. The authority citation for part 5 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: Pub. L. 107-296, 116 Stat. 2135, 6 U.S.C. 101 et seq.; 5 U.S.C. 301. Subpart A also issued under 5 U.S.C. 552. Subpart B also issued under 5 U.S.C. 552a.

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2. Amend Appendix C to part 5 by adding a new section 4 to read as follows:

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Appendix C—DHS Systems of Records Exempt From the Privacy Act

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4. The Department of Homeland Security Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) consists of electronic and paper records and will be used by DHS and its components. IDENT is the primary repository of biometric information held by DHS in connection with its several and varied missions and functions, including, but not limited to: The enforcement of civil and criminal laws (including the immigration law); investigations, inquiries, and proceedings thereunder; and national security and intelligence activities. IDENT is a centralized and dynamic DHS-wide biometric database that also contains limited biographic and encounter history information needed to place the biometric information in Start Printed Page 38750proper context. The information is collected by, on behalf of, in support of, or in cooperation with DHS and its components and may contain personally identifiable information collected by other Federal, State, local, tribal, foreign, or international government agencies.

Pursuant to exemptions 5 U.S.C. 552a(j)(2) of the Privacy Act, portions of this system are exempt from 5 U.S.C. 552a(c)(3) and (4); (d); (e)(1), (e)(2), (e)(3), (e)(4)(G), (e)(4)(H), (e)(5) and (e)(8); (f)(2) through (5); and (g). Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552a(k)(2), this system is exempt from the following provisions of the Privacy Act, subject to the limitations set forth in those subsections: 5 U.S.C. 552a (c)(3), (d), (e)(1), (e)(4)(G), and (e)(4)(H). Exemptions from these particular subsections are justified, on a case-by-case basis to be determined at the time a request is made, for the following reasons:

(a) From subsection (c)(3) and (4) (Accounting for Disclosures) because release of the accounting of disclosures could alert the subject of an investigation of an actual or potential criminal, civil, or regulatory violation to the existence of the investigation; and reveal investigative interest on the part of DHS as well as the recipient agency. Disclosure of the accounting would therefore present a serious impediment to law enforcement efforts and/or efforts to preserve national security. Disclosure of the accounting would also permit the individual who is the subject of a record to impede the investigation, to tamper with witnesses or evidence, and to avoid detection or apprehension, which would undermine the entire investigative process.

(b) From subsection (d) (Access to Records) because access to the records contained in this system of records could inform the subject of an investigation of an actual or potential criminal, civil, or regulatory violation, to the existence of the investigation, and reveal investigative interest on the part of DHS or another agency. Access to the records could permit the individual who is the subject of a record to impede the investigation, to tamper with witnesses or evidence, and to avoid detection or apprehension. Amendment of the records could interfere with ongoing investigations and law enforcement activities and would impose an impossible administrative burden by requiring investigations to be continuously reinvestigated. In addition, permitting access and amendment to such information could disclose security-sensitive information that could be detrimental to homeland security.

(c) From subsection (e)(1) (Relevancy and Necessity of Information) because in the course of investigations into potential violations of Federal law, the accuracy of information obtained or introduced occasionally may be unclear or the information may not be strictly relevant or necessary to a specific investigation. In the interests of effective law enforcement, it is appropriate to retain all information that may aid in establishing patterns of unlawful activity.

(d) From subsection (e)(2) (Collection of Information from Individuals) because requiring that information be collected from the subject of an investigation would alert the subject to the nature or existence of an investigation, thereby interfering with the related investigation and law enforcement activities.

(e) From subsection (e)(3) (Notice to Subjects) because providing such detailed information would impede law enforcement in that it could compromise the existence of a confidential investigation or reveal the identity of witnesses or confidential informants.

(f) From subsections (e)(4)(G) and (H) (Agency Requirements), and (f)(2 through 5) (Agency Rules) because portions of this system are exempt from the individual access provisions of subsection (d) and thereby would not require DHS to establish requirements or rules for records which are exempted from access.

(g) From subsection (e)(5) (Collection of Information) because in the collection of information for law enforcement purposes it is impossible to determine in advance what information is accurate, relevant, timely, and complete. Compliance with (e)(5) would preclude DHS agents from using their investigative training and exercise of good judgment to both conduct and report on investigations.

(h) From subsection (e)(8) (Notice on Individuals) because compliance would interfere with DHS' ability to obtain, serve, and issue subpoenas, warrants, and other law enforcement mechanisms that may be filed under seal, and could result in disclosure of investigative techniques, procedures, and evidence.

(i) From subsection (g) to the extent that the system is exempt from other specific subsections of the Privacy Act.

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Dated: July 5, 2007.

Hugo Teufel III,

Chief Privacy Officer.

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[FR Doc. E7-13576 Filed 7-13-07; 8:45 am]

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