Watchdog: Most Agencies Behind on Personal Data Disclosure Guidance


The Government Accountability Office found that only one out of 17 agencies implemented guidance from the Office of Management and Budget.

Agencies face numerous challenges in the implementation of guidance to obtain written consent from individuals before disclosing personal information, according to a watchdog report issued on Tuesday. 

The Office of Management and Budget issued guidance detailing agencies’ responsibilities to accept digital access and consent forms that agencies should have implemented by November 2021. However, the Government Accountability Office found that, out of 17 agencies, only the Securities and Exchange Commission had fully implemented this guidance as of August 2022.

According to GAO, the other 16 agencies “faced technical issues and competing priorities that have caused delays.” Specifically the agencies did not have the capabilities to accept these electronic forms. However, nine agencies were at the planning stage, four were developing and three were testing. The watchdog noted that out of the 16 agencies, five established implementation time frames. 

GAO stated that the Privacy Act of 1974 bars disclosing personal or agency records without prior written consent of the party. Pursuant to the Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services for Constituents Act of 2019, OMB guidance details “responsibilities for accepting digitally-formatted access and consent forms from individuals who are properly identity proofed and authenticated.” 

Specifically, OMB’s guidance required agencies to: accept electronic identity proofing and authentication; develop a template for electronic consent and access forms to be posted on the agency’s website; and allow electronic consent and access forms from individuals that were properly identified and authenticated. 

As a result, GAO stated that it could be beneficial to share SEC’s efforts with other agencies as they work to satisfy these requirements. In the report, GAO detailed where each of the agencies were in their process of implementing the guidance.

The watchdog recommended that agencies establish timeframes to fully implement the guidance from OMB. GAO made 12 recommendations––one to OMB and the remaining to 11 agencies to implement reasonable timeframes to utilize the guidance.

GAO noted that seven agencies agreed with its recommendations; four agencies and OMB either generally agreed or did not state whether they agreed or not.