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Highlights

The loss of personally identifiable information can result in substantial harm, embarrassment, and inconvenience to individuals and may lead to identity theft or other fraudulent use of the information. As shown in prior GAO reports, compromises to such information and long-standing weaknesses in federal information security raise important questions about what steps federal agencies should take to prevent them. As the federal government obtains and processes information about individuals in increasingly diverse ways, properly protecting this information and respecting the privacy rights of individuals will remain critically important. GAO was requested to (1) identify the federal laws and guidance issued to protect personally identifiable information from unauthorized use or disclosure and (2) describe agencies' progress in developing policies and documented procedures that respond to recent guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to protect personally identifiable information that is either accessed remotely or physically transported outside an agency's secured physical perimeter. To do so, GAO reviewed relevant laws and guidance, surveyed officials at 24 major federal agencies, and examined and analyzed agency documents, including policies, procedures, and plans. In commenting on a draft of this report, OMB stated that it generally agreed with the report's contents.

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