The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. (United States Code) § 552, was enacted in 1966 and generally provides that:
- Any Individual has the right to make a request for federal agency records.
- All agencies of the U.S. Government are required to disclose records upon receiving a written request for them.
- There are nine exemptions in addition to limits to FOIA that protect certain records from disclosure.
The federal FOIA does not provide access to records held by state or local government agencies, or by private businesses or individuals. Most states, and some local jurisdictions, have their own laws about access to state and local records.
Consult the Making a Request section if you plan to make a FOIA request to the Federal Trade Commission. You may be able to access the information you need on the Internet without making a FOIA request. Before making a FOIA request, you should browse our FOIA Reading Room and search the ftc.gov website. Both contain many documents that are available to the public.
What's New With FOIA?
On June 22, 2016, Senate Bill 337, FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, was submitted to President Obama and on June 30, 2016, the President signed it making it effective immediately. The Act contains several substantive and procedural amendments to the FOIA as well as new reporting requirements for agencies. The FTC is working to update its FOIA regulations to be consistent with the amendments. Below please find a brief summary of some of the changes to FOIA:
- Agencies are now required to “make available for public inspection in an electronic format,” records “that have been requested 3 or more times.”
- The amendments codify the foreseeable harm standard. Agencies “shall withhold information” under the FOIA “only if the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by an exemption” or “disclosure is prohibited by law.”
- Exemption 5 of the FOIA was amended to provide that “the deliberative process privilege shall not apply to records created 25 years or more before the date on which the records were requested.”
- New requirements were placed on the agencies whenever they need to extend the time limits by more than ten additional working days and additional limitations were placed on agencies for assessing search fee if response time is delayed.
- When agencies respond to requests they must offer the services of their FOIA Public Liaison and notify requesters of their services provided by the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS). Agencies must also allow requesters a period of at least 90 days within which to file an administrative appeal.
- Summary of the FOIA amendments from the Congressional Research Service
- Text of the enrolled bill