A CITIZEN'S GUIDE ON USING THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
AND THE PRIVACY ACT OF 1974 TO REQUEST GOVERNMENT RECORDS
[ table of contents ] [ next section ]
V. Which Act To Use
The access provisions of the FOIA and the Privacy Act overlap in part. The two laws have different procedures and different exemptions. As a result, sometimes information exempt under one law will be disclosable under the other.
In order to take maximum advantage of the laws, an individual seeking information about himself or herself should ordinarily cite both laws. Requests by an individual for information that does not relate solely to himself or herself should be made only under the FOIA.
Congress intended that the two laws be considered together in the processing of requests for information. Most government agencies will automatically handle requests from individuals in a way that will maximize the amount of information that is disclosable. However, a requester should still make a request in a manner that is most advantageous and that fully protects all available legal rights. A requester who has any doubts about which law to use should always cite both the FOIA and the Privacy Act when seeking documents from the Federal Government.