In 1972, then-Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare Elliot L. Richardson, appointed the Advisory Committee on Automated Personal Data Systems. The Committee assessed the impact of computer-based record keeping on private and public matters and recommended safeguards against its potentially adverse effects.

The Committee first identified certain "fundamental principles" applicable to the recording, disclosure, and use of identifiable personal information. The Committee paid particular attention to the dangers implicit in the drift of the Social Security Number toward becoming an all-purpose personal identifier and examined the need to insulate statistical-reporting and research data from compulsory legal process.

In July 1973, the Advisory Committee published a report titled “Records, Computers and the Rights of Citizens.”[1] The Committee concluded that an individual should have a right "to participate in a meaningful way in decisions about what goes in records about him and how that information shall be used."[2] Agreed upon procedures for ensuring an individual's right to participate — called "fair information practices," were derived from these fundamental principles.[3]

The Report proposed a Code of Fair Information Practices. These principles formed the basis for all subsequent codes and laws related to information collection, especially the Privacy Act of 1974 and the OECD privacy guidelines.


  1. Advisory Committee on Automated Personal Data Systems, Records, Computers and the Rights of Citizens (1973) (full-text).
  2. Id. at 41.
  3. Id. at 40.
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