On June 30th we passed the one-year anniversary of the enactment of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016. Over the past year we have published blog posts suggesting ways agencies can implement some of the amendments, including the requirement to update FOIA regulations and notify requesters about our dispute resolution services.
Today, we want to provide an update on agencies’ efforts to put another one of the bill’s provisions into action: a requirement that agencies identify records that are of general interest or use to the public that are appropriate for public disclosure. According to data we collected through the Records Management Self-Assessment (2016 Final Report coming), 94 percent of the 209 offices that responded to the survey are meeting this requirement fully or to some extent. Only four percent of the respondents said their office is not identifying records that are of general interest or use to the public that are appropriate for public disclosure. The remainder of the responding offices (two percent) reported that they did not know if their office was meeting this requirement.
The term of art FOIA enthusiasts use for publishing agency information before anyone makes a FOIA request is “proactive disclosure,” and increasing proactive disclosure has been a hot topic in the FOIA community for a number of years (both the 2014-2016 and current term of the FOIA Advisory Committee include a subcommittee working on proactive disclosure). One of the reasons that proactive disclosure has been a popular topic in the FOIA world is the hope that agencies can reduce the number of FOIA requests they receive by making more proactive disclosures. Even if more proactive disclosures do not decrease the volume of FOIA requests, releasing records that are of interest to the public without waiting for a FOIA request helps ensure FOIA requests are better-targeted and advances open government.
Do you have any suggestions for types or categories of records that agencies should put online? Let us know in the comments section or on Twitter at @FOIA_Ombuds!