Background. The Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1980 establishes a broad mandate for agencies to perform their information activities in an efficient, effective, and economical manner. Section 3504 authorizes the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to develop and implement policies. OMB Circular No. A-130, Appendix IV. The Act specifically requires the Director to develop and implement Federal information policies and standards including policies concerning: (1) reducing the burden of government paperwork on the public; (2) records management activities; (3) the privacy of records pertaining to individuals; and (4) reviewing federal government information collection requests.
The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (Pub. L. 104-13) significantly changes many aspects of information collection by the Federal government. The Act, which went into effect October 1, 1995 requires agencies to plan for the development of new collections of information and the extension of ongoing collections well in advance of sending proposals to the OMB. By reason of the Act, agencies must:
- Seek public comment on proposed collections of information through "60-day notices" in the Federal Register;
- Certify to the OMB that efforts have been made to reduce the burden of information collection on small businesses, local government and other small entities; and
- Have in place a process for independent review of information collection requests prior to submission to OMB.
General Provisions. In addition to minimizing the paperwork burden "resulting from the collection of information by or for the Federal Government," the Paperwork Reduction Act is intended to "strengthen the partnership between the Federal Government and State, local, and tribal governments by minimizing the burden and maximizing the utility of information created, collected, maintained, used, disseminated, and retained by or for the Federal Government." 44 U.S.C. § 3501.
Privacy and Other Civil Liberties Implications. As stated at 44 U.S.C. § 3501(8), the PRA was enacted, at least in part, to "ensure that the creation, collection, maintenance, use, dissemination, and disposition of information by or for the Federal Government is consistent with applicable laws, including law relating to... privacy and confidentiality," including the Privacy Act of 1974. 5 U.S.C. § 552a. "With respect to privacy and security, the Director shall... develop and oversee the implementation of policies, principles, standards, and guidelines on privacy, confidentiality, security, disclosure and sharing of information collected or maintained by or for agencies." 44 U.S.C. § 3504(g).
The Federal Data Quality Act (also known as the Information Quality Act) (Pub. L. 106-555, Section 515; 12/21/2000) was enacted in response to requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). This law, which is only a few paragraphs long, amends the PRA and was enacted as part of an appropriations bill. Pub. L. 106-554 Appendix C. The law requires federal agencies to issue guidelines to ensure the "quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information" disseminated by Federal agencies. This law also requires agencies to provide persons about whom they maintain information a means of correcting that information. More specific instructions about implementing the guidelines are provided at 67 Federal Register 8452–60. (10 pp. PDF) Also see "Federal Agencies Subject to Data Quality Act" for a summary and historical background of the purposes of the Data Quality Act.