The Privacy Act set rules on how the government collected, protected, and shared personal information from citizens. The act was signed in 1974.
Then came the Internet.
Although the government has been intermittently updating privacy rules, a broader sweep is needed to address the increasing reliance on computer technology, said a report by the Government Accountability Office.
"The federal government collects and uses personal information on individuals in increasingly sophisticated ways, and its reliance on information technology (IT) to collect, store, and transmit this information has also grown," the report said. "While this enables federal agencies to carry out many of the government’s critical functions, concerns have been raised that the existing laws for protecting individuals’ personal information may no longer be sufficient given current practices."
The report suggested a number of corrections, such as making sure privacy standards are consistent across all federal agencies, making sure personal data is used only for well-defined specific purposes, and keeping the public informed about what steps are being taken to protect private information.