Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA)?

(n) Freedom of Information is the right of the citizen to get information about the governance, actions, decisions and past records which are not confidential and effecting the security of the nation, required by them from the authorities.

History and Meaning of Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA)

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal law that was enacted in 1966 and was designed to provide the public with greater access to government information. It was created to promote transparency and accountability in the government by allowing citizens to request information about how the government operates.

Under the FOIA, any member of the public can request access to federal agency records, such as reports, emails, and other documents. The government is required to release this information unless it falls under one of the exemptions outlined in the law, such as information that could harm national security, personal privacy, or harm law enforcement.

The FOIA has been amended several times throughout its history, expanding the range of information that can be requested and required more proactive disclosure of information by government agencies.

Examples of Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA)

  1. A journalist submits a FOIA request to the Department of Justice for all communications between the department and a particular politician during a specific time period.

  2. A citizen requests access to the minutes of a town council meeting under the FOIA.

  3. A group of environmental activists submit a FOIA request to obtain reports on the environmental impact of a proposed highway expansion.

  4. A researcher submits a FOIA request to access a government agency's database for a study on public health outcomes.

Legal Terms Similar to Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA)

  • Privacy Act: A law that establishes controls over the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personal information by federal agencies.
  • Sunshine Act: A law that requires certain government agency meetings to be open to the public.
  • Public Records: Any information, data or documents held by a government agency that is not exempt from disclosure under the FOIA.