individual’s photograph or image, Social Security number, or medical or disability information) for almost all purposes.

  • Megan’s Law, 42 U.S.C. 14071 (1999), obligates states to require prison officials or courts to inform convicted sex offenders of their obligation to register with state law enforcement authorities and to re-register if they move to another state. The state agencies in turn are to inform local law enforcement authorities, typically the local police department, of convicted sex offenders who reside in their jurisdiction. The state law enforcement agencies are also required to inform the FBI about the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders. (In many cases, states have gone farther in requiring the publishing of the addresses of sex offenders so that the communities in which they reside will be alerted to their presence.)

Also, a number of federal laws require the attorney general to promulgate regulations for access to criminal history and incarceration records of individuals. These regulations, 28 C.F.R. 20, are intended to ensure the accuracy, completeness, currency, integrity, and security of such information and to protect individual privacy.

In 1996 Congress passed a major piece of health care legislation called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Among its privacy provisions, it mandates regulations to protect the confidentiality of individually identifiable health information and is further discussed in Chapter 7.

In 2001, Congress passed the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act, and in 2006, a number of amendments to the act. In general, the USA PATRIOT Act and subsequent amendments lower some of the barriers to conducting surveillance in the United States for national security or foreign intelligence purposes, provide the U.S. intelligence community with greater access to information uncovered during criminal investigations, and encourage cooperation between law enforcement and foreign intelligence investigators. The USA PATRIOT Act also lessens certain restrictions on criminal investigations, such as delayed notification of physical searches executed pursuant to a search warrant under some circumstances and court-enabled access to otherwise-protected educational records in terrorism cases. Finally, the USA PATRIOT Act creates judicial oversight for e-mail monitoring and grand jury disclosures.14


This discussion is based on Charles Doyle, The USA PATRIOT Act: A Legal Analysis, Order Code RL31377, Congressional Research Service, Washington, D.C., April 15, 2002, available at; and Brian T. Yeh and Charles Doyle, USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005: A Legal Analysis, Order Code RL33332, Congressional Research Service, Washington, D.C., March 24, 2006, available at

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