Privacy Act System Notice 09-20-0166
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System name: Vital Statistics for Births, Deaths, Fetal Deaths, Marriages and Divorces Occurring in the United States During Each Year. HHS/CDC/NCHS.
System location: National Center for Health Statistics, Coordinating Center for Health Information and Service (CCHIS), Metro IV Bldg., Rm. 7311, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3311 Toledo Road, Hyattsville, MD 20782.
Categories of individuals covered by the system: Individuals who are born and their parents; individuals who die; and parents experiencing fetal deaths.
Categories of records in the system: The records include microfilm or paper images of State records or machine-readable data prepared by the State from records collected under the laws of each State for births, deaths, and fetal deaths. The records contain the demographic characteristics of individuals associated with each event. In addition, the birth records include information on the characteristics of each live birth, the health status of the infant, and socioeconomic characteristics of the parents. The death records contain medical information relating to cause of death and to socioeconomic characteristics of the deceased; the fetal death record contains medical information relating to cause of death and socioeconomic characteristics of the parents. Only counts of marriages performed and divorces granted are obtained from State vital registration offices; no personal characteristics or legal information regarding these events are obtained by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Periodically the NCHS conducts follow back surveys, collecting information on random samples of births and deaths through mail questionnaires. The content of questionnaires for the follow back surveys varies. Past surveys have collected information on such topics as hospital utilization in the last year of life, smoking habits of the deceased, health status of infants, and pregnancy and employment histories of mothers.
Lists of names and other identifying information are provided to NCHS by individuals and organizations who for health research purposes seek to have them matched against a file of decedents in order to determine the fact of death and to identify State death records. This strictly controlled file of decedents is called the National Death Index.
Purpose(s): The data are used for statistical purposes only. Uses within the Department include the preparation of aggregated data in the form of statistical tables for publication, analysis, and interpretation to meet the legislative mandates of 42 U.S.C. 242k, i.e., to determine the extent and nature of illness and disability of the population of the U.S., including life expectancy and levels of infant and maternal mortality, environmental and other health hazards, trends in family formation, growth, and dissolution, and expand the scope of data that NCHS can collect from the national registration system, to make the registration system more responsive to changing needs for data, and to evaluate the quality of data collected on the birth and death records.
Routine uses of records maintained in the system, including categories of users and the purposes of such uses: With the permission of the data provider in a restricted data access program, electronic files containing additional detail is provided to qualified researchers who have signed a Restrictive Confidentiality Agreement.
The Department occasionally contracts with a private firm for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, aggregating, or otherwise refining records in this system. Relevant records are disclosed to such a contractor. The contractor is required to maintain Privacy Act safeguards and to strictly follow Section 308(d) of the Public Health Service Act.
NCHS may disclose selected identifiable information to authorized recipients such as the Social Security Administration for statistical analysis purposes only, consistent with the requirements of Section 308(d) of the Public Health Service Act and the Privacy Act.
Retrievability: Some jurisdictions submit microfilm or paper copies of certificates of birth, death, and fetal death, and data are extracted from them for quality control or statistical dissemination or both. States submit pre-coded vital statistics data electronically via the NCHS Secure Data Network.
Safeguards: Measures to prevent unauthorized disclosures are implemented as appropriate for the particular records maintained. NCHS and its contractors implement personnel, physical and procedural safeguards as follows:
- Authorized Users: Persons authorized and needing to use the records to perform job related duties, including Project Directors, contract officers, interviewers, analysts, statisticians, statistical clerks, and data entry personnel on the staffs of the Center and the contractors.
- Physical Safeguards: Paper copies of the records are stored in locked files or offices when not in use. Building security in Hyattsville, MD includes the use of identification badges by employees and a card key system used to enter NCHS occupied space. In the Research Triangle Park, North Carolina facility access is controlled by a security guard, a card key system, and the use of identification badges by employees.
- Procedural Safeguards: All employees of NCHS and contractor personnel with access to NCHS records are required, as a condition of employment, to sign an affidavit binding them to nondisclosure of individually identifiable information and to view an NCHS video tape addressing confidentiality and systems security. Periodic correspondence is sent to staff to reinforce confidentiality regulations, guidelines, and procedures. Protection for computerized records both on the mainframe and the National Center Local Area Network (LAN) includes programmed verification of valid user identification code and password prior to logging on to the system, mandatory password changes, limited log-ins, virus protection, and user rights/file attribute restrictions. Password protection imposes user name and password log-in requirements to prevent unauthorized access. Each user name is assigned limited access rights to files and directories at varying levels to control file sharing. There are routine daily backup procedures and secure off-site storage is available for backup files. Additional safeguards may be built into the program by the system analyst as warranted by the sensitivity of the data.
Contractors who maintain records in the system are instructed to make no further disclosure of the records. Privacy Act and Section 308(d) of the Public Health Service Act requirements are specifically included in contracts for survey and research activities related to this system. The HHS Project Directors, contract officers, and project officers oversee compliance with these requirements.
- Implementation Guidelines: The safeguards outlined above are in accordance with the HHS Information Security Program Policy and FIPS Pub 200, “Minimum Security Requirements for Federal Information and Information Systems,” and the NCHS Staff Manual on Confidentiality. Data maintained on CDC’s Mainframe and the National Center LAN are in compliance with OMB Circular A-130, Appendix III. Security is provided for information collection, processing, transmission, storage, and dissemination in general support systems and major applications.
Retention and disposal: Records are retained and disposed in accordance with the CDC Records Control Schedule for NCHS records. The microfilm copies of the individually identifiable records are retained in locked office files of NCHS until the process of conversion to computer files and verification of information is completed. The retention schedule, as stated in the VSCP contract with each jurisdiction, is as follows for vital statistics source documents (hard copy or microfilm): Destroy or return to the registration area copies of source documents for all vital statistics events three months after the release of the Advance Report. If problems are detected prior to or following the release of the Advance Report, copies of the source documents may be retained until the problems are resolved but not later than the date the Annual Volumes are released. In no case shall copies be retained more than 48 months after the end of the data year (e.g., December 31, 2005 for data year 2001) unless specific permission is requested from the States. All releases of data based on NCHS use of source documents shall meet NCHS confidentiality regulations and any other restrictions contained in the state’s contract.
System manager(s) and address: Director, Division of Vital Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, CCHIS, Metro IV Bldg., Rm. 7311, MS P08, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3311 Toledo Road, Hyattsville, MD 20782.
Record access procedures: Access to record systems which have been granted an exemption from the Privacy Act access requirement may be made at the discretion of the system manager. Positive identification is required from anyone seeking access. Appeal of access refusal may be made to the Director, FOI/Privacy Acts Division, Office of Public Affairs, HHS Office of the Secretary. An individual may also request an accounting of disclosures of his or her record, if any.
Contesting record procedures: If access has been granted, contact the system manager and reasonably identify the record, specify the information being contested, and state the corrective active sought, with supporting information to show how the record is inaccurate, incomplete, untimely, or irrelevant.
Record source categories: Vital statistics data are obtained from State Vital Statistics Offices, or, in rare instances, from other State or county repositories of marriage or divorce data. Information in follow back surveys is obtained from hospitals, physicians, or relatives of the infants or the deceased.
Systems exempted from certain provisions of the act: With respect to this system of records, exemption has been granted from the requirements contained in subsections 552a(c)(3), (d)(1) through (4), and (e)(4)(G) and (H) in accordance with the provisions of subsection 552a(k)(4) of the Privacy Act of 1974. The reason that the system has been exempted is that this system contains only records required by statute to be maintained and used solely as statistical records. The exemption was published in the Federal Register. October 8, 1975, page 47413.
- Page last updated: April 11, 2012