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Revision as of 20:45, 22 March 2011

735-Other State Agencies


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Privacy Issues

The Department of Consumer Affairs, Office of Privacy Protection assists individuals with identity theft and other privacy-related concerns. Information is available on Identity theft, Online, Financial, Business and Health Privacy, California Privacy Legislation, Privacy Laws.

Office of Privacy Protection
915 Capitol Mall, Suite 200
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 651-1086
(866) 785-9663
(916) 653-3815
Email - privacy@dca.ca.gov

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) is a nonprofit consumer organization that provides consumer information about Background Checks and other Workplace Privacy Issues; Financial Privacy; Medical Records; Public and Government Records. A fact sheet discussing government public records and confidential records (DMV, voting, property, court, postal address, etc.) is available at www.privacyrights.org

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
3100 - 5th Ave., Suite B
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 298-3396
(619) 298-5681 Fax

Federal Bureau of Investigation records

Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts requests:

Consumers may request information that may be found in the FBI’s Central Records System. Information may be about an organization, business, investigation, historical event, or incident, a third party, a deceased person, or about themselves.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Freedom of Information Privacy Section
835 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 10104
Washington, DC 20535
(202) 324-3000

An FBI Identification Record, often referred to as a Criminal History Record or Rap Sheet, is a listing of certain information taken from fingerprint submissions retained by the FBI. An individual may request a copy of his or her own FBI Identification Record for personal review or to challenge information on the Record.

Federal Bureau of Investigations
FBI CJIS Division – Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, West Virginia 26306
(304) 625-5590

California Department of Justice criminal history

Access to criminal history summary records maintained by the California Department of Justice is restricted by law to legitimate law enforcement purposes and authorized Applicant Agencies. Individuals have the right to request a copy of their own criminal history record from the department to review the information for accuracy and completeness.

California Department of Justice
Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information
ATTN: Record Review Unit
Sacramento, CA 94203-4170
(916) 227-3835

See also:
Medical Records (Privacy)
Vital Statistics


Public records are just that---public. Public records may also be used by private investigators, law enforcement officials, and other government agencies. The most common government records are:

  • California Department of Motor Vehicles Driver Licenses
  • California Department of Motor Vehicles Car Registration Records
  • Voter Registration Records
  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Death Certificates
  • Property Records
  • Court Records
  • Divorce Record
  • Arrest Records (but not criminal)
  • Postal address information


  • Social welfare information such as Medicare records and social security information is generally confidential.
  • Tax information, both federal and state tax information, is confidential.
  • School records are confidential. A person over 18 must authorize the release of individual records before others can view them, including parents. Parents or guardians have control over the records of children under 18 years.
  • Public library records are confidential under the California Public Records Act. All registration and circulation records of any library which receives public funds may be disclosed for library employees to do their job, by order of superior court, or if the person authorizes their release.
  • Criminal history information compiled by local and state criminal justice departments is confidential.
  • Medical records are confidential until a person allows access to those records by signing a "blanket waiver" or "general consent form". These signed forms allow a health care provider to release a persons medical information to government agencies, insurance companies, employers and others.
  • Licensing Agency - investigation files are confidential.


The two main federal privacy laws are the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Freedom of Information Act; these laws apply to federal government agencies. The Privacy Act deals with keeping government records on individuals confidential. The Freedom of Information Act is commonly used to obtain access to government files.

Privacy Act (Federal)

The Privacy Act gives an individual the right to:

  • See and copy files that the federal government maintains on him or her;
  • Find out who else has had access to the information;
  • Request a change in any information that is not accurate or relevant.

A government agency is required to:

  • Respond to a request for information within 10 days;
  • Notify the public about the types of files they maintain;
  • Inform the public how they use the information;
  • Make sure the information is relevant;
  • Make sure the information is not used for any purpose other than the one for which it was initially collected.

If a citizen is denied access to his or her records, that individual can appeal in court. A citizen may also take a government agency to court if he or she believes it has improperly disclosed information about that person, or if he or she wants to block impending disclosures.

Freedom of Information Act (Federal)

This act was designed to help individuals obtain information about the actions of the Federal government. It requires that citizens be given access to Federal government records unless disclosure involves:

  • Litigation
  • Internal agency memos
  • Trade secrets
  • Law enforcement activities
  • Violating an individual's privacy interests
  • Civil service exams (to the extent it would affect the fairness of the tests)
  • The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
  • Personnel matters
  • Classification documents
  • Confidential government sources

If the agency denies a request for information, it must tell the individual within 10 days. A citizen may appeal the denial either within the agency itself or in court.


California has two state laws which are similar to federal legislation: the California Information Practices Act and the California Public Records Act.

California Information Practices Act (State)

The California Information Practices Act applies only to state agencies. It is similar to the federal Privacy Act and provides an individual access to information about an individual held by state agencies; however, the Information Practices Act does not require the state to publish a list of the type of records agencies create.

If an individual requests information, the state agency must respond within 30 to 60 days. A person can be denied his or her records for the same reasons under the Privacy Act. If a request is denied, the individual must be told the reason for the denial.

The Information Practices Act does not cover city or county government records. Local governments are free to make their own laws in this area.

California Public Records Act is similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act and covers state, city, and county boards, special commissions, agencies and school districts. With a few exceptions, all records from these bodies are considered public documents.

Consumer Resource & Referral Guide Consumer Resource & Referral Guide
Directory of State Agencies Directory of State Agencies
Directory of Federal Agencies Directory of Federal Agencies
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