Freedom of Information Act

n. (FOIA, abbr.)A law that describes an individual's rights to access information held by a government agency, as well as the agency's legal authority to refuse access to such information.


The federal Freedom of Information Act is codified at 5 USC §552. Most states have similar laws, though the names may vary, including open records law and sunshine law. The laws are not uniform among states. The laws are intended to allow citizens to know what agencies are doing so that the agencies can be held accountable.


Am. Jur. 2d, Records §32 The federal Freedom of Information Act [in 5 USC §552] requires that each agency, in accordance with published rules, shall make available for public inspection and copying final opinions, including concurring and dissenting opinions, as well as orders, made in the adjudication of cases; those statements of policy and interpretations which have been adopted by the agency and are not published in the Federal Register; and administrative staff manuals and instructions staff that affect a member of the public; unless the materials are promptly published and copies offered for sale. . . . The Act further provides that, to the extent required to prevent a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, an agency may delete identifying details. . . . [The Act specifically excludes defense or foreign policy secrets, trade secrets and confidential commercial or financial information, intragovernmental communications, personnel and medical files, and investigatory files.]