The FOIA prohibits public access to personnel, medical and similar files, as doing otherwise would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Personal data that are kept in government files are also withheld from public scrutiny (HRSA, n. d. ). Law Enforcement This exemption allows the withdrawal of documents that were compiled for law enforcement purposes (SEC. gov, 1999). The types of documents that fall under this exclusion are classified into the following: a. Could reasonably be expected to interfere with law enforcement proceedings, b. Would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, c.
Could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, d. Could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, e. Would disclose techniques, procedures, or guidelines for investigations or prosecutions, or f. Could reasonably be expected to endanger an individual’s life or physical safety (SEC. gov, 1999). Financial Institutions The eight exemption safeguards information contained in or related to examination, operating or condition reports that were prepared by SEC-regulated financial institutions such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Reserve (HRSA, n. d. ).
Geological Information This exemption covers geological and geophysical information, data and maps about gas or oil wells (SEC. gov, 1999). Conclusion The FOIA is a law that was created to bring about transparency in the US government. Because ordinary citizens have access to government records, they know full well where their taxes are going to and whether or not their leaders are doing their job. But the FOIA, akin to any law, is not without limitations. The FOIA’s limitations, in the form of its nine exemptions, see to it that the people’s “right to know” is not at the expense of their right to privacy.
References George Washington University – The National Security Archive. (2008). The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Retrieved December 4, 2008, from http://www. gwu. edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/foia. html US Department of Health and Human Services – Health Resources and Services Administration. (n. d. ). Exemptions (Reasons Access May Be Denied Under the FOIA). Retrieved December 4, 2008, from http://www. hrsa. gov/foia/foiaexemp. htm US Securities and Exchange Commission. (1999, December 1). Freedom of Information Act Exemptions. Retrieved December 4, 2008, from http://www. sec. gov/foia/nfoia. htm