Before describing those rights and obligations it is important that we become aware of some of the key limitations of the Privacy Act.
- It applies only to Federal agencies in the executive branch of government; it does not apply to the Congressional or Judicial branches. Nor does it apply to state or local government agencies, or organizations or businesses in the private sector.
- It applies only to information about living persons. Information about deceased persons is not covered under the Privacy Act.
- And very importantly, the Privacy Act does not cover all individual information, even of living persons; it covers individual information only if the information is included in a "system of records." This is a key concept. As defined in the Privacy Act, a system of records is a group of records that are retrieved by some kind of personal identifier, such as a name or number.