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FOIA Glossary

Agency record: Any information that would be an agency record subject to the requirements of the FOIA when maintained by an agency in any format, including an electronic format.

Appeal: A request to an agency asking that it review at a higher administrative level a determination it has made in the processing of a FOIA request. Determinations include full denial or partial denial of access to records under the FOIA, matters pertaining to fees, and other decisions in the processing of the FOIA request.

A request to an agency asking that it review at a higher administrative level a determination it has made in the processing of a FOIA request. Determinations include full denial or partial denial of access to records under the FOIA, matters pertaining to fees, and other decisions in the processing of the FOIA request.

 
Case: OGIS will open a case when a customer asks for assistance in resolving a dispute. OGIS assigns a number to each case.

Chief FOIA Officer: a senior official within an agency who monitors agency compliance with FOIA, recommends adjustments to agency practices related to improving the efficiency of FOIA processes, and designates FOIA Public Liaisons within the agency.

Consent: OGIS must receive a customer’s formal consent under the Privacy Act of 1974 to discuss his or her specific FOIA request or issue with an agency so as not to violate the Privacy Act.

Customer: A requester or agency contacting OGIS for assistance.

Dispute: When two or more parties cannot agree on an outcome. OGIS assists with resolving disputes as a neutral, independent third party by helping the parties to the dispute try to reach a mutually agreeable solution.

FOIA Public Liaison: A point of contact within each Federal agency, whose role is to assist FOIA requesters in making requests, appeals, and resolving FOIA disputes between requesters and agencies.

FOIA Reading Room: The place on an agency’s website where frequently requested records and other agency documents are posted for the public to see.

FOIA request: A written request for access to agency records pertaining to general topics of interest, including requests for access to another individual's records. The FOIA does not require that a request state that it is being made under the FOIA.

FOIA Requester Service Center: The office within each agency where requesters can go for assistance with any part of the FOIA process.

Frequently requested records: Under FOIA, any record requested three or more times is considered a “frequently requested record” and should be posted online in the agency’s FOIA Reading Room.

Mediation Services: The umbrella term "mediation services" includes the following: (1) mediation, a process in which a neutral third party, a mediator, assists disputing parties in reaching a mutually agreeable resolution; (2) facilitation, one approach used by mediators to assist each party understand the other's position, interests and needs and is used here to indicate those cases in which OGIS staff (as opposed to an outside mediator) works in a less structured, informal manner with the parties to find common ground to resolve disputes; and (3) ombuds services, where an ombudsman acts as a confidential and informal information resource, communications channel, complaint-handler, and dispute-resolver.

Ombudsman: This person is typically an independent, neutral party who logs complaints, provides information and assists with resolving disputes. As the FOIA Ombudsman, OGIS provides these services in the FOIA context.

Privacy Act request: A written request for access to a person's own records that are maintained by the Federal government (first party request).

Requester: Any person or organization requesting records from a Federal agency under the FOIA.