Does FOIA apply to me?

The quick answer is no!

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal law originally passed in 1966 that applies only to executive branch federal agencies. It doesn’t apply to Congress, the courts, or state or local governments.

If FOIA doesn’t apply in North Carolina, what does?

States have their own laws–referred to variously as Public Records, Open Records, Open Government, Sunshine, or Freedom of Information laws. North Carolina’s is the Public Records chapter of the General Statutes, more commonly known as G.S. 132. This law applies to every agency of state and local government, including “every public office, public officer or official (State or local, elected or appointed), institution, board, commission, bureau, council, department, authority or other unit of government of the State or of any county, unit, special district or other political subdivision of government.”

There are many exemptions to G.S. 132. Some of these exemptions are listed within G.S. 132 (e.g., social security numbers). Some are listed in other North Carolina statutes (e.g., personnel records, which are exempted in G.S. 147, G.S. 153, G.S. 160, G.S.115, G.S. 130, and several other statutes), and yet others are exempted through federal law (e.g., FERPA, HIPAA).

No matter how thorough, the laws listed above are still sometimes ambiguous. In these cases, we have to turn to North Carolina case law to see how the courts have interpreted the laws (e.g., whether private entities might be subject to public records law–see Frayda Bluestein’s excellent post at the UNC School of Government blog Coates’ Canons)


2 thoughts on “Does FOIA apply to me?

  1. Pingback: News and Notes | History For All the People

  2. Pingback: Happy Sunshine Week! | The G.S. 132 Files

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