President Trump has signed into law (P.L. 116-50) a recently passed bill revising a Privacy Act provision that was seen as hampering Congress’s ability to interact with federal agencies on behalf of constituents.
The measure overturns a policy prohibiting a federal agency from sharing an individual’s personally identifiable information with another agency or person, including a congressional office, without the individual’s written authorization. While most agencies accept any signed document from an individual granting their member of Congress access to their records, some require their own forms to be submitted to initiate a casework inquiry, according to a summary of the measure.
“Although this process works, constituents often reach out to their member of Congress during an emergency situation or after a natural disaster, and returning a privacy release form in this manner can become a burdensome task,” the summary says.
The measure requires OMB to issue within one year a policy creating electronic consent forms for use by congressional offices when contacting agencies for information related to inquiries from members of the public that require the individual’s consent to release. Those forms would have to be posted to each agency’s website and each agency would have to accept the electronic consent forms from any individual who has been properly identity proofed and authenticated. Also, each agency would have to accept electronic identity authentication.