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FOIA Overview

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), codified at 5 U.S.C. Section 552, is a Federal law that establishes the public's right to obtain information from Federal government agencies. Any person can file a FOIA request, including U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, organizations, associations, and universities. The Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act grant you the right to access many government records about how the government operates.

Under FOIA, any person has a right to a copy of certain records possessed by the executive offices, agencies, corporations, administrations, commissions, boards and services. However, some records (sensitive, personal, commercial and governmental) are protected from disclosure.

The Electronic Reading Room contains copies of many records available under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), such as Final Opinions and Orders, Policy Statements, Staff Manuals and Instructions, and Frequently Requested Records.

Privacy Act

Under the Privacy Act, if an agency files information about you by your name or any other means that identifies you (such as social security number), you have certain rights:

  • to see the information;
  • to keep other people from seeing it; and
  • to correct it if it is wrong