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How FOIA treats personal email messages used to conduct official business

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  1. Freedom of Information
 

 

Unlike some state public records laws, the federal Freedom of Information Act does not define whether personal email messages are public records. Whether a record is subject to disclosure under FOIA turns on whether the federal agency created or obtained the record or whether the agency controls the record. In determining whether personal documents are subject to disclosure under FOIA, courts have developed a test that looks at what role the personal documents play in the agency’s official business. The more a personal email message was used by the agency for official business, the more likely courts are to consider it to be subject to FOIA.