Tip Line

Privacy Impact Assessment
Internet Tip Line (ITL)
April 21, 2004


This PIA is conducted pursuant to the E-Government Act of 2002, P.L. 107-347, the accompanying guidelines issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on September 26, 2003, and the FBI's PIA guidelines.

The Internet Tip Line (ITL) provides a method by which the public can submit tips and leads relating to terrorism and other criminal matters through the FBI’s internet website.


A. What information is being collected? The FBI’s internet website contains a link titled “FBI TIPS and Public Leads.” If a user clicks on the icon, he/she is linked to a screen which requests the following information: submitter name, phone number, email address, residence address, and a description of the information. In addition to the personal information about the submitter requested on the website, the system automatically collects the following information from the Internet environment: date/time of the tip and certain information about the submitter such as the operating system used by the submitter, as well as the submitter’s remote host and remote address.

In addition to information received from the public through the FBI’s website, the ITL system contains information received from other federal agency websites. This information is generally faxed to the FBI and entered into the ITL system and treated in the same fashion as if it were received from the public through the FBI’s website.

B. Why is the information being collected? The information is being collected in order to assist the FBI's mission to combat terrorism and other criminal activity.

C. What is the intended use of the information? FBI analysts review the information submitted and determine whether it has legitimate lead value. Information is then forwarded to the appropriate entity for handling, such as an FBI field office or an agency outside the FBI such as Secret Service, Homeland Security, etc.

The FBI's Counterterrorism Division maintains the information collected through the ITL in a database, including the submitter’s name, a tip ID number assigned to the tip, information regarding any leads and dispositions, and other information developed about the tip such as an IP address list of previous SPAM. This database is accessible to FBI personnel and is used during the review and assessment of other tips. FBI personnel may search the ITL database by name to determine if a particular individual has previously submitted a tip. In addition, the accumulated database information may be analyzed to assist with other FBI investigative efforts.

In February, 2004, the FBI entered into a pilot program with DHS to enhance information sharing. Part of the pilot involves placing a link to the FBI ITL on the DHS information sharing network website. When a user clicks on the Tip/Lead link on the DHS website, he/she is sent to the FBI’s ITL website and may submit a tip/lead through the FBI. The FBI will conduct logical and authorized investigative activities for tips/leads that originate on the DHS website and will provide DHS with information regarding FBI actions taken on such leads via a secure connection through Law Enforcement On-Line, as appropriate.

D. With whom will the information be shared? As noted above, information will be shared with FBI agents and analysts, as appropriate, for the purpose of conducting authorized mission functions. In addition, information may be shared with other law enforcement and/or intelligence community agencies, as appropriate.

E. What opportunities will individuals have to decline to provide information or to consent to particular uses of the information? By its very nature, any provision of information to the FBI through the ITL is voluntary. An individual is free to decide whether or not to send the FBI information through the ITL website. In addition, the system will allow a tip to be submitted without the information identifying the submitter and submitter’s may also request that their identity remain confidential. Otherwise, submitters do not have the opportunity to consent to particular uses of the information.

F. How will the information be secured? Information is secured in accordance with established FBI policy including utilization of password protected systems; maintaining information in a secure government facility with access limited to only authorized personnel or authorized and escorted visitors; employing physical security protections including guards and locked facilities requiring badges and passwords for access; limiting record access to authorized government personnel, and; protecting records by appropriate physical and technological safeguards to prevent unauthorized access.

G. Is this a system of records? Yes. The ITL is part of the FBI Central Records System (DOJ/FBI-002) and no new Privacy Act system notice is required.

H. What choices did the FBI make regarding an IT system or collection of information as a result of performing the PIA? The ITL was created in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. At that time, no centralized method existed for the public to contact the FBI via the Internet to report information regarding this or any other issue of concern. The FBI internet website was modified to afford the general public a mechanism to report suspected terrorist activity to the FBI.

As a result of performing the PIA, the system sponsor was advised to ensure that appropriate privacy policy provisions are provided on the website in accordance with applicable OMB guidance.


The system does not involve any new collection techniques or processes that may be controversial or invasive of personal privacy. The ITL is simply an automated method by which the public may submit information to the FBI.

Based on the foregoing, the FBI Senior Privacy Official has determined that the proposed database presents no noteworthy privacy concerns and approves the system.