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When should I use a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request information?

All USGS products and publications are in the public domain. Most are readily available for free download on our websites. Before launching a potentially time-consuming Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, make sure that the information you need cannot be easily obtained by immediate means. Visit the USGS website, explore our FOIA Reading Room (with links to oft-requested documents), or contact us for assistance.

The FOIA gives the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. The FOIA does NOT require the USGS to answer questions about specific pieces of information, to render opinions, to conduct research for you, to create or certify records, to initiate investigations, to analyze or interpret records, to provide personal (rather than agency) records, to write new computer programs, or to reorganize a filing system. Some of those tasks (like certification of USGS products) can be initiated through different avenues. Contact the USGS to find out if what you need is readily available.