Can the information obtained from an RFI be denied under a FOIA exemption? If so ,what excemtption and why?
There are at least three possibilities to consider. The first is the exemption is at FAR 24.202(a), which states "A proposal in the possession or control of the Government, submitted in response to a competitive solicitation, shall not be made available to any person under the Freedom of Information Act." However, a response to a Request for Information would probably not be considered a "proposal" in the context of FAR 24.202(a). More to the point, FAR 15.207(b) states: "Information received in response to an RFI shall be safeguarded adequately from unauthorized disclosure." The question then becomes, What is "unauthorized disclosure" and does it imply protection under FOIA?
Open full Question Details
Still another possibility is exemption (b)(4), which addresses "trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person that is privileged or confidential." If any of the responses to the RFI were marked “privileged,” “confidential,” or indicated some other limitation on disclosure, a case could be made that exemption (b)(4) may apply to those. See a full list of exemptions (including (b)(4)) at this link.
Your question clearly is one that needs to be presented to your organization's FOIA office or legal counsel. For the U.S. Coast Guard, also see HSAR Part 3024, PROTECTION OF PRIVACY AND FREEDOM OF INFORMATION.