For Official Use Only (FOUO) is an information security designation used by governments throughout the world.
FOUO is primarily used by the U.S. Department of Defence as a handling instruction for Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) which may be exempt from release under exemptions two through nine of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
It is one of the various sub-categorizations for strictly unclassified information which, on 24 February 2012, was officially consolidated as CUI.
Information is not classified (e.g., secret, top secret, etc.), but it is not public, either.
Information can be shared with anyone with a clear need to know,
Information should not be publicized.
- Information that is currently and properly classified.
- Information that pertains solely to the internal rules and practices of the agency that, if released, would allow circumvention of an agency rule, policy, or statute, thereby impeding the agency in the conduct of its mission.
- Information specifically exempted by a statute establishing particular criteria for withholding. The language of the statute must clearly state that the information will not be disclosed.
- Information such as trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a company on a privileged or confidential basis that, if released, would result in competitive harm to the company, impair the Government’s ability to obtain like information in the future, or impair the Government’s interest in compliance with program effectiveness.
- Inter- or intra-agency memorandums or letters containing information considered privileged in civil litigation. The most common privilege is the deliberative process privilege, which concerns documents that are part of the decision-making process and contain subjective evaluations, opinions, and recommendations. Other common privileges are the attorney-client and attorney work product privileges.
- Information, the release of which would reasonably be expected to constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of individuals.
- Records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes that:
- Could reasonably be expected to interfere with law enforcement proceedings.
- Would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication.
- Could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of others.
- Disclose the identity of a confidential source.
- Disclose investigative techniques and procedures.
- Could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.
- Certain records of agencies responsible for supervision of financial institutions.
- Geological and geophysical information (including maps) concerning wells.
Responsibility lies with document originator on whether the information may qualify for FOUO status and to ensure markings are applied as required.
Information that is currently and properly classified shall be withheld from mandatory release in accordance with FOIA Exemption 1.
- Information cannot be marked as classified and FOUO at the same time
- Information that is declassified may be designated and marked as FOUO only when disclosure to the public of that particular record, or portion thereof, would reasonably be expected to cause a foreseeable harm to an interest protected by one or more of FOIA Exemptions 2 through 9.
- FOUO is not authorized as a means of protecting information that otherwise does not merit protection as classified for national security reasons.
Information that has been determined to qualify for FOUO status shall be indicated by markings.
Access to FoUo:
- No person may have access to information designated as FOUO unless that person has been determined to have a valid need for such access in connection with the accomplishment of a lawful and authorized Government purpose.
- Individual who has authorized possession, knowledge, or control of the information determines the need.
- FOUO may be disseminated to representatives of foreign governments and international organizations to the extent that disclosure would further the execution of a lawful and authorized mission or purpose.
- FOUO are authorized to disseminate such information to officials in other departments and agencies of the Executive and Judicial Branches to fulfill a Government function.
How to protect FoUo:
- During working hours, reasonable steps shall be taken to minimize the risk of access by unauthorized personnel. After working hours, FOUO information may be stored in unlocked containers, desks, or cabinets if Government or Government-contract building security is provided.
- FOUO information and material may be transmitted via first class mail, parcel post, or, for bulk shipments, via fourth class mail. Electronic transmission of FOUO information shall be by approved secure communications systems or systems utilizing other protective measures such as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) or transport layer security (e.g., https). Use of wireless telephones should be avoided when other options are available.
- FOUO information may only be posted to DoD websites consistent with security and access requirements specified in Reference.
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