DHS seeks Privacy Act exemptions

The Homeland Security Department wants to exempt its new case-management system for immigration fraud investigations from portions of the Privacy Act. DHS also recently proposed making or has made other systems exempt from similar federal privacy regulations.

Department officials are seeking to make Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (CIS) new Fraud Detection and National Security Data System (FDNS-DS) exempt from Privacy Act provisions that allow people to access their records and get information about searches and disclosures of those records.

In a notice of proposed rulemaking published in the Federal Register Aug. 18, officials said the exemptions are necessary to protect confidential informants and are “standard law enforcement and national security exemptions exercised by a large number of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.” The department is accepting comments on the proposed rule until Sept. 17.

Meanwhile, DHS published a final rule Aug. 18 that bestows similar Privacy Act exemptions on Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s new Pattern Analysis and Information Collection System.

FDNS-DS will store data related to immigration applications involving suspected or confirmed fraud, criminal activity, and national security concerns. The information will include the results of background checks conducted for pending applications, CIS' referrals to law enforcement agencies and vice versa.

The system will also track interactions among federal agencies involved in investigating potential immigration fraud. DHS said the system will allow CIS to enhance its ability to detect and track benefits fraud and other criminal activity, conduct efficient and accurate background checks, and adjudicate national security cases.

In addition, DHS has announced its intention to exempt Customs and Border Protection's Border Crossing Information system from Privacy Act provisions that allow people to see who has accessed their records. However, travelers would still be allowed to view their biographical information, photographs or itinerary information on request, according to the proposed rule published in the Federal Register July 25.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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