Privacy Compliance

Section 208 of the E-Government Act of 2002 requires agencies to conduct privacy impact assessments (PIAs) for electronic information systems and collections. PIAs must be made publicly available, unless the agency determines not to make the PIA publicly available if such publication would raise security concerns, reveal classified (i.e., national security), or reveal sensitive information (e.g., potentially damaging to a national interest, law enforcement effort, or competitive business interest).


Privacy Threshold Analysis (PTA) and Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) 

Privacy Threshold Analysis

A privacy threshold analysis is a questionnaire used to determine if a system contains personally identifiable information (PII), whether a PIA is required, whether a System of Records Notice (SORN) is required, and if any other privacy requirements apply to the information system. A PTA should be completed when proposing a new information technology system through the budget process that will collect, store, or process identifiable information or when starting to develop or significantly modify such a system, or when a new electronic collection of identifiable information is being proposed. A PTA will determine if a PIA is required.

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Privacy Impact Assessment

A Privacy Impact Assessment is analysis of how information in identifiable form is collected, maintained, stored, and disseminated, in addition to examining and evaluating the privacy risks and the protections and processes for handling information to mitigate those privacy risks.

A PIA must be conducted before:

    1. Developing or procuring IT systems or projects that collect, maintain or disseminate information in identifiable form from or about members of the public, or
    2. Initiating, consistent with the Paperwork Reduction Act, a new electronic collection of information in identifiable form for 10 or more persons (excluding agencies, instrumentalities or employees of the federal government).

A PIA must be updated to reflect changed information collection authorities, business processes, or other factors affecting the collection and handling of information in identifiable form, in addition to where a system change creates new privacy risks, such as:

    1. Conversions - when converting paper-based records to electronic systems;
    2. Anonymous to Non-Anonymous - when functions applied to an existing information collection change anonymous information into information in identifiable form;
    3. Significant System Management Changes - when new uses of an existing IT system, including application of new technologies, significantly change how information in identifiable form is managed in the system;
    4. Significant Merging - when agencies adopt or alter business processes so that government databases holding information in identifiable form are merged, centralized, matched with other databases or otherwise significantly manipulated;
    5. New Public Access - when user-authenticating technology (e.g., password, digital certificate, biometric) is newly applied to an electronic information system accessed by members of the public;
    6. Commercial Sources - when agencies systematically incorporate into existing information systems databases of information in identifiable form purchased or obtained from commercial or public sources. (Merely querying such a source on an ad hoc basis using existing technology does not trigger the PIA requirement);
    7. New Interagency Uses - when agencies work together on shared functions involving significant new uses or exchanges of information in identifiable form, such as the cross-cutting E-Government initiatives; in such cases, the lead agency should prepare the PIA;
    8. Internal Flow or Collection - when alteration of a business process results in significant new uses or disclosures of information or incorporation into the system of additional items of information in identifiable form; or
    9. Alteration in Character of Data - when new information in identifiable form added to a collection raises the risks to personal privacy (for example, the addition of health or financial information).

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Approved PIAs


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Questions and Comments

Send Questions, Comments or Complaints on the Commerce Privacy program to


Office of Privacy and Open Government
Office of the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce

Page last updated: October 15, 2021