Federal Privacy Laws

Data are essential to inform public health activities. While an abundance of data are collected and used in different sectors, laws define how data can be used to promote health of individuals and communities. Unfortunately, it can be hard to know whether there are legal barriers to a proposed data use. Different laws with different requirements can apply to data in different contexts.  These legal snapshots give an overview of the basic legal requirements of different federal data protection laws to help public health professionals and researchers understand how different federal laws might apply to a proposed data activity. They also provide links to full text versions of the law and other federal resources.

This annotated resource compilation is intended to help state and local agencies access information and resources needed to better understand the federal legal protections and requirements associated with datasets collected by federal agencies or as part of a federally funded program.

Federal Laws: Child and Adult Care Food Program

Federal Law: Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Confidentiality Provisions

Citation: 42 U.S.C. § 1758(b)(6); 7 C.F.R. § 226.2; 7 C.F.R. § 226.23

CACFP confidentiality provisions protect eligibility information contained in applications for children’s free or reduced price meals.

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Federal Laws: Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA)

Federal Law: Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002 (CIPSEA)

Citation: 44 U.S.C. § 3501 Note Sec. 501, et al.

CIPSEA protects identifiable information collected by federal agencies for exclusively statistical purposes.

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Federal Laws: Department of Veterans Affairs

Federal Law: Confidentiality of Drug Abuse, Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection, and Sickle Cell Anemia Medical Records

Citation: 38 U.S.C. 7332; 38 C.F.R. §§ 1.460-1.499

Protects drug and alcohol abuse, HIV, and sickle cell VA records.

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Federal Laws: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

Federal Law: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Citation: 20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 C.F.R. Part 99

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects identifiable student education records.

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Federal Laws: Head Start Program

Federal Law: New Head Start Program Performance Standards

Citation: 42 U.S.C. § 9801, et seq.; 45 C.F.R. § 1303 Subpart C

Head Start regulations contain privacy protections that generally align with the protections found in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

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Federal Laws: Health and Human Services Privacy Act Regulations

Federal Law: Health and Human Services (HHS) Privacy Act Regulations

Citation: 5 U.S.C. § 552a; 45 C.F.R. Part 5b

The HHS Privacy Act Regulations implement the requirements of the Privacy Act of 1974 for HHS.

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Federal Laws: Higher Education Act

Federal Law: Higher Education Act (National Student Loan Data System)

Citation: 20 U.S.C. § 1092b; 34 C.F.R. Part 5b

The Higher Education Act limits who can access the National Student Loan Data System and how the data can be used.

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Federal Laws: HIPAA Privacy Rule

Federal Law: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule

Citation: 42 U.S.C. § 1320d et al., 45 C.F.R. Parts 160 and 164

HIPAA Privacy Rule limits uses and disclosures of identifiable health information by covered entities and business associates.

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Federal Laws: Homeless Management Information Systems

Federal Law: Homeless Management Information Systems Privacy Standards

Citation: 42 U.S.C. § 11360a; 24 C.F.R. § 578.7; 24 C.F.R. § 578.57; 24 C.F.R. § 578.103; 69 FR 45888

HMIS seeks to protect the confidentiality of personal information.

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Federal Laws: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B

Federal Law: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B Confidentiality Provisions

Citation: 20 U.S.C. § 1400; 34 C.F.R. Part 300

IDEA contains confidentiality provisions that apply to personally identifiable information relating to children with disabilities.

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