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OIP Issues Guidance on FOIA-Privacy Act Interface

Today, the Office of Information Policy (OIP) published new guidance on the interface between the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act.  This guidance provides practical insight for agency FOIA professionals who process access requests for Privacy Act records.  Both the Privacy Act and FOIA are long-established mechanisms for individuals to seek access to government records.  The Privacy Act and FOIA can overlap, and it is critical that FOIA professionals understand this interface to make disclosure determinations that provide requesters the full scope of access to which they are entitled under both statutes. 

The guidance compares key elements of the FOIA and Privacy Act, including the laws’ respective purposes, definitions of “record,” and rights of access. The guidance further explains how agencies should process requests involving Privacy Act records, depending on whether the request is submitted by a first-party requester seeking their own records or a third-party seeking records about another person.  The guidance also addresses other common questions, such as how to handle third-party information within a Privacy Act record and how to report requests involving Privacy Act records in agencies’ Annual FOIA Reports.

The topics covered in this guidance are regularly included in OIP’s training on FOIA-Privacy Act Interface.  OIP is also available to answer any questions or provide additional guidance to agencies.  Please contact 202-514-3642 or for assistance. 

Updated September 15, 2022