The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of 1966 and the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 allow you to obtain a copy of a record that has been maintained by a federal agency. These records do not contain any information on individuals and can be obtained by any member of the public making a request. This law is usually used to request copies of reports on specific matters or compilations of records on particular subjects.
Unlike the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act of 1974 does not let you request just any records. Rather, the Privacy Act allows you to only request, review, and ask for corrections in federal records that are specifically about you. No one else may request these records, and you may not request records about someone else. People usually use this act to see what records federal agencies may have on them.
Both laws give you the opportunity to request records maintained by the federal executive branch. This does not cover congressional, judicial, state, or private entities' records. You must first identify the agency most likely to have the material you are looking for before filing a request:
The Freedom of Information Act provides exceptions for certain records that prevent them from being accessed by the public. These exceptions include:
The Privacy Act also provides exceptions for certain records, including:
A government lawyer may be able to help you decide which agency would most likely have the record you are seeking to obtain. A lawyer can also help you determine under which law your request falls, and help guide you through the process of uncovering the information.
Last Modified: 09-30-2016 02:46 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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