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Security, Freedom of Information Act, FOIA

How does FOIA work?

What is FOIA?

The Illinois Freedom of Information Act (5 ILCS 140/), usually referred to as FOIA, provides that all public records must be available for public inspection, unless there is a compelling reason not to release the information.  It also specifies state universities as subject to the statute.

The full text of the Act may be found at:

According to the statute, "Public records" means all records, reports, forms, writings, letters, memoranda, books, papers, maps, photographs, microfilms, cards, tapes, recordings, electronic data processing records, electronic communications, recorded information and all other documentary materials pertaining to the transaction of public business, regardless of physical form or characteristics, having been prepared by or for, or having been or being used by, received by, in the possession of, or under the control of any public body.

FOIA presumes that any public record is subject to public disclosure, unless it falls into one of a few specified categories. Records exempt from disclosure include employee personal information such as home address or personal phone number and email address, or other information that would constitute an unwarranted invasion of individual privacy.  It also includes information where disclosure is prohibited by law, such as health information and personal financial information. A record request that is so broad or complex as to place an undue burden on the public body to respond is also exempted from fulfillment.

What should I do if I receive a FOIA request?

The first thing to know is that no one except the university FOIA office in the Office of University Relations is authorized to respond to any FOIA request.  There are complex requirements to preserve individual privacy that must be considered, while making certain to respond fully to the request as required by the FOIA statute. In addition there are logging requirements and legal time limits that must be managed and documented centrally by the university to be in compliance with the law. 

If someone from another department or unit decides to tries to fulfill a FOIA request, there is a very good chance the university will not have met its obligations under the law.  The university FOIA office has the experience to make the judgment as to what should and should not be included in a response, as well as access to University Counsel in the event of a more challenging legal question that a FOIA request poses. In addition, the FOIA requests themselves are public documents that are subject to a FOIA request. If they are scattered all over campus and not logged centrally, there is no way to produce all of them if a request is made for them. Policy requires units to leave FOIA responses to the FOIA office charged with the responsibility of properly tracking and responding to requests.

If you receive a FOIA request, immediately refer the request to the FOIA office.  Email:
Upon receipt of a FOIA request, University Relations staff may contact you to discuss the request and any documents responsive thereto.

For more information:
Office of University Relations - (217) 333-6400

Is everything on my work computer subject to be disclosed under FOIA?

The Campus Administrative Manual (CAM) states the following under its Appropriate Use Policy:  (

Before storing or sending confidential or personal information, campus users should understand that most materials on University systems are, by definition, public records. As such, they are subject to laws and policies that may compel the University to disclose them. The privacy of materials kept in electronic data storage and electronic mail is neither a right nor is it guaranteed.

With that understanding, the university does make an effort to separate personal information of employees from work product, and has a policy and a process for accessing another person's documents, however users are advised to operate their work computers with the knowledge that the systems are owned by the university and with the assumption that everything on them may be accessed or disclosed at the university's option.  If you want assurance that your personal information will not be seen by others, do not put it on your university system.

Outside of the personal information that the FOIA office will exclude from their response, users should assume that everything on a university-owned computer is subject to being disclosed under FOIA.

KeywordsHow does FOIA work? Who handles requests?   Doc ID34170
OwnerSecurity S.GroupUniversity of Illinois Technology Services
Created2013-10-04 13:27:50Updated2020-03-16 17:23:36
SitesUniversity of Illinois Technology Services
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