Definition of the Freedom of Information Act from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary


    the Freedom of Information Act

    ; NAmE
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  1. 1(abbreviation FOI) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a law that gives people the right to ask a public authority or organization whether they have any information on a particular subject, and if so, to obtain it. The authority or organization must reply to a request within 20 days but may refuse to provide information in some circumstances, for example where it could harm national security (= the protection of the nation and its interests). The law also requires public institutions to actively follow a programme of publishing the information that they hold. It was passed in 2000 but only came fully into effect in 2005. A separate but similar law applies in Scotland. compare the Official Secrets Act
  2. 2(abbreviation the FOIA) in the US, a law that allows anyone to ask to see information kept by the government on a person or an organization. Such requests must be in writing and name specific documents. The law was passed in 1966 and strengthened in 1974, and journalists have often used it. Some personal files and information relating to national security are not included under the law. Individual states have similar laws.