Just days after FOIA celebrated its 49th birthday on July 4, the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy (OIP) announced a pilot project aimed at improving government transparency by making almost all records released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) available to anyone online. FOIA offices in seven agencies, including the Office of General Counsel at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), are participating in the effort.
Currently agencies are encouraged to post records on their websites if they have been requested three or more times. A number of efforts over the last few years have encouraged agencies to make better use of the Internet to improve public understanding of the government’s decisions and actions. For example, all agencies participating in FOIAonline— the multi-agency platform that allows users to submit FOIA requests to any participating agency—have the option of publishing any released record to a central searchable repository. A subcommittee of the FOIA Advisory Committee (which is managed by OGIS) is exploring issues related to posting records released under FOIA. And in March 2014, the Department of Justice issued updated guidance to agencies on improving proactive disclosures.
According to the OIP announcement, the pilot projects will:
“answer many important questions, including: costs associated with such a policy, effect on staff time required to process requests, effect on interactions with government stakeholders, and the justification for exceptions to such a policy, such as for personal privacy. For privacy reasons, participating agencies will not post online responses to requests in which individuals seek access to information about themselves.”
Implementation of the pilots and the results will be available to the public. Members of the public are encouraged to send their feedback, including suggestions for the metrics that agencies should collect, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on how the pilot project will be carried out at NARA, please check out the announcement on the National Archives Blog, NARAtions.