Options for Promoting Privacy on the National Information Infrastructure. 4. The Freedom of Information Act


Open government, and access to government records, facilitates public participation in governance. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)69 empowers citizens to access government records. But FOIA also balances public access rights with individual privacy rights by allowing agencies to exempt from disclosure personal information subject to the Act.70 In Department of Justice v. Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press,71 the Supreme Court determined that purely personal information about private individuals is not subject to disclosure under FOIA because it does not advance the purpose of the Act, which is to shed light on the conduct of government agencies or officials.72

69. 5 U.S.C. § 552.

70. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6).

71. 489 U.S. 749 (1989).

72. Id. at 773. See also Office of Information and Privacy, U.S. Dep't of Justice, Freedom of Information Act Guide and Privacy Act Overview 220-31, 243 (1996) (discussing privacy considerations and FOIA).