Skip to Main Content Skip to Left Navigation Skip to Footer
Commerce Seal montage illustrating the work Commerce does
Print without left or right navigation

Automated Commercial Environment (ACE)

Foreign-Trade Zones Board

Privacy Impact Assessment

Integration into U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s

Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) through the

International Trade Data System (ITDS)

February 2008

Project: Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) / International Trade Data System (ITDS)

Unique Project Identifier: N/A

Project Description

The Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) is a system being developed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to automate and consolidate border processing. ACE will be the centralized access point that connects CBP, the trade community, and other government agencies. The development of ACE began in 2001 as a replacement for CBP’s Automated Commercial System (ACS), an older trade information database. The purposes of ACE are to streamline business processes, facilitate growth in trade, ensure cargo security, provide the tools to monitor the movement of individuals and materials into and out of the country, and foster participation in global commerce.

The Secretary of Commerce acts as chairman of the Foreign Trade Zones Board. The staff of the FTZ Board is located in Import Administration, part of the International Trade Administration (ITA) at Commerce. This assessment involves the use of ACE/ITDS by the FTZ staff. Other offices within Import Administration will also be accessing and communicating with CBP through ACE; however, their activities will be included in separate Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs).

To build on existing infrastructure, ACE will use the International Trade Data Systems (ITDS) to share electronic international trade and transportation data with Participating Government Agencies (PGAs) of the federal government. The Foreign-Trade Zones Board is a PGA; the Census Bureau, Import Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, are the other Commerce PGAs.

Foreign-trade zones (FTZ) are designated sites licensed by the Foreign-Trade Zones Board (Commerce and Treasury) where special customs procedures are used. These procedures allow domestic activity, which includes manufacturing, processing, assembling, testing, destruction, repackaging, relabeling, exhibition and warehousing of foreign items to take place prior to formal entry. Duty-free treatment is accorded items that are re-exported and duty payment is deferred on items sold in the U.S. market, which helps to offset customs duty advantages available to overseas producers who compete with domestic industry.

All zone activity is subject to public interest review and all manufacturing and processing activity requires a case-by-case review. FTZ sites and facilities remain within the jurisdiction of local, state and federal governments or agencies, and all zone activity is conducted under the supervision of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Authorization for each site of an FTZ project is limited in terms of its physical boundaries and the scope of authority for activity at the site. Every project is subject to implicit restrictions based on the limits of the FTZ plan described in the application reviewed by the Board. Also, restrictions can be explicitly stated in Board orders based on issues or negative findings. Zone plans and zone activity also remain subject to review by the FTZ Board, as necessary, through annual reports and special monitoring.

The FTZB plans to use ACE to support its mission of monitoring the U.S. foreign-trade zone program. In particular, ACE will provide the FTZB with trade data elements and a reference structure that will improve the FTZB’s ability to effectively administer its regulations by improving timely access to accurate trade information.

1. What information is to be collected (e.g., nature and source)?

CBP is providing the FTZB with access to ACE/ITDS through a Web portal. FTZB users will have two primary roles with the link to the CBP system. The FTZB will input certain information into the system and will also download data from ACE/ITDS.

The type of personal information that will be contained in ACE/ITDS and provided by or accessible to the FTZB includes contact names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses for zone and sub-zone companies and organizations. Both personally identifiable information (PII) and business identifiable information (BII) are included.

In addition, ACE/ITDS will provide the FTZB with access to CBP data on specific shipments into and out of foreign-trade zones (FTZs). The FTZB will download this data from the ACE/ITDS Web portal and store it on FTZB equipment. Security on the computers that will be used to store the data includes user IDs and passwords. Data will be clearly marked as ACE data and will be available only to those with a need for the information and the appropriate background check. Personally identifiable information, including social security numbers, will be input into ACE/ITDS if such data is used to identify an importer or is on the importation documents.

CBP has also developed a privacy impact assessment (PIA) for its role in the collection and storage of data in ACE. The CBP PIA for ACE can be found at:

2. Why is the information being collected (e.g., to determine eligibility)?

The FTZ Act of 1934 (19 U.S. Code, Sec. 81) established the Foreign-Trade Zones Board and gave it the authority to license and regulate foreign-trade zones. The FTZ Act also requires each zone to report to the FTZB on zone activity, and for the FTZB to report to Congress annually on zone operations. Use of the ACE/ITDS system will support the FTZB in its role of tracking and monitoring FTZs and zone activity.

3. What is the intended use of the information (e.g., to verify existing data)?

The FTZB plans to use ACE to support its organizational mission of monitoring the U.S. foreign-trade zone program. The information to be collected and stored in ACE/ITDS is pertinent to the stated purpose for which the information is to be used, and only information that is required for the tracking and monitoring of FTZs and zone activity is collected and stored in the system by the FTZB. Likewise, the information that the FTZB will download and store from ACE is limited to information on shipments into and out of

FTZs, and is used for monitoring zones and zone activity.

4. With whom will the information be shared (e.g., another agency for a specified programmatic purpose)?

The information that the FTZB inputs into the system will be shared with CBP through the ACE portal. The information that the FTZB will download from the system will be for internal use only.

5. What opportunities do individuals have to decline to provide information (i.e., where providing information is voluntary) or to consent to particular uses of the information (other than required or authorized uses), and how can individuals grant consent?

All information collected is submitted by the parties involved as part of the application process. Participation in the FTZ program is itself voluntary. When an organization applies to establish an FTZ, they must provide contact and other basic information regarding the organization. There is no request or requirement that home addresses or phone numbers be provided.

6. How will the information be secured (e.g., administrative and technological controls)?

The FTZB will access ACE/ITDS through a secure CBP Web portal. Detailed information on the security of the portal itself is available in the CBP PIA cited above.

Access to downloaded data from the portal will be limited to FTZB users, who are federal employees who require the information to fulfill their responsibilities. Data that is downloaded from ACE/ITDS will be stored on equipment and in offices of the FTZ staff at the Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C. The FTZ staff is located in the main Commerce (Herbert Clark Hoover) building, where entry is controlled and visitors must be escorted. The offices are locked when empty, and access to the computers requires a user identification and password.

Access to input information into the system is further restricted by CBP to FTZB users who have undergone full background investigations.

7. Is a system of records being created under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552a.?

ACE/ITDS is a CBP Privacy Act system of records that is covered by the system of records notice (SORN) DHS/CBP-001, which was published in the Federal Register, vol. 71, page 3109, dated January 19, 2006.

FTZB is in the process of developing a SORN (COMMERCE/ITA-8), for the records it creates and provides through the CBP Web portal.

Contact Information:

Elizabeth Whiteman