Public Citizen v. United States Department of the Army

Topic(s): 
First Amendment
Documents:
Press Releases:
Case Description: 

The Privacy Act prohibits federal agencies from collecting, using, maintaining, or disseminating records describing how any individual exercises rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. The Vice Chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity asked the states to submit certain voter information to the Department of the Army, including voter history and political party affiliation. By accepting this data, the Army would violate the Privacy Act’s prohibition on collecting information describing the exercise of individuals’ first amendment rights; and by allowing the Commission to download this data, the Army would violate the Privacy Act’s prohibition on disseminating this information.

Public Citizen filed suit on behalf of its members to prevent the Army from collecting, maintaining, or disseminating the data. Shortly thereafter, the Commission stated that it was going not going to involve the Army, or any other federal agency, in its data collection, but instead would use a server within the White House. Public Citizen then dismissed its lawsuit against the Army.

Unfortunately, by handling the collection and use of the voter data within the White House, the Commission was able to avoid the requirements of the Privacy Act, which courts have held do not apply to the White House.