NTEU Challenges Proposed Privacy Changes

Federal employees rightfully have security concerns in the wake of last year’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data breaches. That’s why NTEU recently submitted comments to OPM opposing proposed changes to its privacy procedures for personnel files.

Here are some of the proposed changes and why NTEU is against them:

OPM wants to expand the types of documents about an employee that an agency can refuse to give the employee access to.

NTEU objects because allowing individuals to request their own government records is a fundamental purpose of the Privacy Act.

OPM wants the right to retain records about individuals even if their accuracy “may be unclear” or if the information “may not be strictly relevant” because they “may aid” in establishing patterns of wrongdoing by the individual.

NTEU objects to this sweeping change for a number of reasons including that the Privacy Act maintains that agencies may only keep information about individuals that is relevant and necessary to accomplish its mission.

OPM was also woefully short on details. There is no explanation of why this change is warranted, who would make the determinations about retaining the information and what exactly constitutes a “pattern” of possible misconduct.

The bottom line is OPM should not be retaining volumes of more personal, potentially sensitive and irrelevant information about federal employees when it has demonstrated that it cannot guarantee the security of this information. Read more about this case and NTEU’s other legal battles in the current issue of Status Call.