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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Privacy and Confidentiality

Freedom of Information Act

Enacted by Congress in 1966, and expanded in 1996 to cover electronic records,1 the United States Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)2 generally provides that any person has the right to obtain access to information contained in the records of federal agencies, unless such information is specifically protected from disclosure by FOIA.  With a goal of ensuring an informed citizenry, capable of holding the government accountable, FOIA effectively establishes a statutory right of public access to executive branch information, requiring that virtually every record held by a federal agency be provided to individuals upon request.3




Current View


  • 1. Electronic Freedom of Information Amendment Acts of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-231, 110 Stat. 3048 (1996) (codified as amended at 5 U.S.C. 552).
  • 2. Freedom of Information Act, 5. U.S.C. § 552 (2006), amended by OPEN Government Act of 2007.
  • 3. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Freedom of Information Act Guide (2004), available at