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Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act

Learn more about your rights to federal records.


Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law that gives you the right to access information from the federal government.

How to Make a FOIA Request

Any person can make a FOIA request for any federal agency record. To make a request, write a letter to the agency that describes the information you want, and the format you want it in, in as much detail as possible.

You can find a sample FOIA request letter in Your Right to Federal Records (PDF). You can also download this publication to an e-reader or order a free print copy.

When you complete your letter, send it to the agency's FOIA contact. Find the FOIA contact for every federal agency.

Before you send a FOIA request, it’s a good idea to look at an agency’s website first to see what's already available. FOIA requires that federal agencies release certain information automatically, without the need for you to make a request.

If the records you seek are about yourself, you can request them under both the FOIA and the Privacy Act of 1974.

Learn more about how to make a FOIA request.

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Privacy Act of 1974

The Privacy Act of 1974 establishes certain controls over what personal information is collected by the federal government and how it is used.

How to Request Information Under the Privacy Act

Write a letter to the agency that you believe may have a file pertaining to you. You can find detailed instructions and a sample letter in Your Right to Federal Records (PDF). You can also download this publication to an e-reader or order a free print copy.

If the records you seek are about yourself, you can request them under both the FOIA and the Privacy Act of 1974.

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