Controlled Unclassified Information

Definition of Controlled Unclassified Information

Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) is a classification used for information that requires safeguarding or dissemination controls according to U.S. federal law, regulations, and policies. Although CUI is sensitive and not for public release, it is not classified at the same security level as classified national security information. This designation ensures proper handling, sharing, and protection of sensitive unclassified data among authorized individuals and organizations.


The phonetics for “Controlled Unclassified Information” in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) would be: /ˌkənˈtroʊld ˌʌnkləˈsfaɪd ˌɪnfərˈmeɪʃən/

Key Takeaways

  1. Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) is a category of information that requires safeguarding and dissemination controls but does not meet the criteria for classified information.
  2. CUI is governed by specific laws, regulations, and government-wide policies, with the intent to standardize the way unclassified information is protected across all federal agencies.
  3. To handle CUI properly, individuals must be trained and familiar with the appropriate handling, storage, and sharing procedures, as well as the requirements for marking and decontrolling the information.

Importance of Controlled Unclassified Information

Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) is an important technology term because it refers to sensitive information that requires proper handling and protection, yet does not meet the strict criteria for classified information.

CUI covers a wide range of topics, including intellectual property, financial data, and personal identifying information, among others.

By designating information as CUI, organizations can establish standardized guidelines and processes for sharing, accessing, and safeguarding such information, effectively reducing the risk of unauthorized disclosure and potential harm.

This is critical in today’s interconnected world, where inadvertent data exposure or breaches of security can lead to significant financial loss, reputational damage, or even threats to national security.

The CUI program thus plays a vital role in supporting collaboration between stakeholders while ensuring critical information remains protected.


Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) plays a pivotal role in safeguarding sensitive data that does not fall under the category of classified information. Its primary purpose is to address the need for a systematic approach to protect sensitive information across various federal agencies, organizations, and contractors, ensuring a consistent and standardized handling procedure.

Often derived from areas such as intelligence, law enforcement, privacy, export control, and critical infrastructure, CUI encompasses documentation and material that, if improperly disclosed, can potentially jeopardize the interests, safety, or mission objectives of the entities involved. By implementing CUI, these organizations provide a secure and regulated framework to exchange vital information without compromising confidentiality, while simultaneously supporting collaborative efforts across multiple sectors.

In essence, CUI enables secure communication and collaboration without creating unnecessary barriers that might hinder effective partnerships. Adhering to the policies and guidelines established for handling CUI ensures that all participants—regardless of their affiliation or background—maintain a shared understanding of the information’s appropriate handling, dissemination, and protection measures.

As a result, Controlled Unclassified Information strikes the perfect balance between the unrestricted flow of information and the safeguarding of sensitive data, contributing to a more proficient and well-protected community.

Examples of Controlled Unclassified Information

Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) is a category of information that, although not classified, requires safeguarding or dissemination controls under U.S. law, federal regulations, or government-wide policies. Here are three real-world examples of CUI:

Medical Records: Personal health information is subject to stringent privacy regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Medical records are considered CUI because they contain sensitive information about an individual’s health history and conditions, which need to be protected from unauthorized access and disclosure.

Sensitive Business Information: Organizations often possess confidential or sensitive information related to business processes, trade secrets, financial data, or proprietary research. This information, while not classified, may be subject to legal protections and contractual obligations to maintain its confidentiality. Sensitive business information falls under the CUI umbrella when shared with government entities, especially in situations involving government contracts or research grants.

Law Enforcement Data: In the realm of law enforcement, CUI can include various types of sensitive, unclassified information. For example, investigation records or evidence, the personal information of victims or witnesses, or operational planning are all considered CUI due to the need to protect this information from unauthorized disclosure that could compromise ongoing investigations or privacy rights.

Controlled Unclassified Information FAQ

What is Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)?

Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) refers to unclassified information that requires safeguarding and dissemination controls as per federal laws, regulations, and government-wide policies. It is sensitive information that does not meet the criteria for classified information, but still needs to be protected from unauthorized disclosure.

What is the purpose of designating information as CUI?

The purpose of designating information as CUI is to enhance the protection and proper handling of sensitive information shared by the federal government and non-federal entities. It aims to ensure that information can be easily identified, marked, and shared among authorized users to prevent unauthorized access or misuse of data.

What types of information are considered CUI?

There are various categories and subcategories of information that can be considered as CUI. Examples include, but are not limited to, Privacy information, proprietary business information, law enforcement records, intellectual property rights, and controlled technical information. Different agencies may define additional categories according to their requirements.

Who is responsible for safeguarding CUI?

All federal agencies and non-federal entities, including private sector organizations, state, local, and tribal governments, who receive, possess, or process CUI, are responsible for properly safeguarding it according to the standards and guidelines issued by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

What are the consequences of mishandling CUI?

Mishandling CUI can lead to financial penalties, administrative sanctions, and other adverse impacts for both individuals and organizations. Such actions can damage trust and collaboration between the federal government and non-federal entities, and compromise the security of sensitive information, potentially leading to potential harm to national security or individual privacy.

Related Technology Terms

  • Information Security
  • Data Classification
  • Cybersecurity
  • Access Controls
  • Compliance Regulations

Sources for More Information


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