Computer matching refers to the computerized comparison of records for the purpose of establishing or verifying eligibility for a federal benefit program or for recouping payments or delinquent debts under such programs. The Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988 regulates the use of computer matching by federal agencies. However, matches performed for statistical, research, law enforcement, tax, and certain other purposes are not subject to such regulation. A matching program can be subject to the requirements of the Computer Matching Act if records from a Privacy Act system of records are used during the program. If Federal Privacy Act records are matched against State or local records, then the State or local matching program can be subject to the new matching requirements.
Generally, matching programs involving federal records must be conducted under a matching agreement between the source and recipient agencies. The matching agreement describes the purpose and procedures of the matching and establishes protections for matching records. The agreement is subject to review and approval by a Data Integrity Board. Each federal agency involved in a matching activity must establish a Data Integrity Board.