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Agency Obligations under FOIL: Providing Access to Electronic Records in Response to FOIL Requests

Agency Obligations under FOIL: Providing Access to Electronic Records in Response to FOIL Requests

Under the New York Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), State and local government authorities and agencies have an obligation to provide people with access to their electronic records when requested. When responding to a FOIL request for electronic records, an agency or authorities’ obligations include:

· If the agency maintains records in a database or online system that can be accessed remotely, the agency should provide the requester with access to the database or system, if feasible.

· If the requested records are stored in a database, the agency or authority should make reasonable efforts to extract the information from the database and provide it in a usable format.

· If the requester specifies a particular format for the electronic records, such as an excel spreadsheet, the agency should make a reasonable effort to provide the records in the requested format, if feasible.

· If the electronic records contain metadata (information about the creation, modification, or management of the records), the agency should make reasonable efforts to preserve and provide the metadata to the extent it is relevant to the records requested.

· To the extent that any of these electronic records may contain information that is exempt from disclosure, the agency should redact this information, rather than deny the request.


While the process may be time-consuming for an agency or authority to extract the necessary data or records from the electronic records or to convert the records in the requested format, this alone is not a ground for a denial of FOIL request, and is grounds for further administrative appeal. If the denial is upheld on appeal, this Final Determination is subject to judicial challenge by Article 78 proceeding before the New York State Supreme Court.

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