Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Glooscap councillor promises disclosure - Front - TheChronicleHerald.ca


The Globe and Mail - Ontario Liberals pushed to reveal knowledge of complaints against Niagara agency


FOI Request Reveals Councils Have Spent £315 Million On CCTVs In Last 3 years ...


FOI Request Reveals Councils Have Spent £315 Million On CCTVs In Last 3 years ...
Published on Google Alerts - "foi" -"ma foi" | shared via feedly
These figures were obtained by the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch through FOI requests. 'This is a shocking figure. Public money is being wasted on ...
See all stories on this topic »

Secrecy v. Democracy


Secrecy v. Democracy
Published on The FOIA blog | shared via feedly

Firedoglake has this piece on secrecy and democracy.  One of the by-products of the Wikileaks Cable release is a discussion of when redactions are appropriate in public documents -- which of course is something everyone associated with the FOIA deal with every day.  It is a needed discussion -- and one that hopefully will continue after the latest firestorm abates.

New era starts for journalism - Calgary Herald


New era starts for journalism - Calgary Herald
Published on "freedom of information" - Bing News | shared via feedly
In B.C., the privacy commissioner has sided with the Freedom of Information and Privacy Association that Victoria must release contracts made with IBM.

FOI lifts veil on our ignorance of international pollution action ...


FOI lifts veil on our ignorance of international pollution action ...
Published on Google Alerts - "foi" -"ma foi" | shared via feedly
A lead veil is shielding commentators from the extent of international action on pollution and climate change, writes John Connor, CEO The Climate Institute.
Crikey - http://www.crikey.com.au/

Freedom of Information vital for cultural diversity: UN - New Kerala


Freedom of Information vital for cultural diversity: UN - New Kerala
Published on "freedom of information" - Bing News | shared via feedly
New York, Nov 30 : Freedom of information, and universal access to it, is crucial to promoting cultural and linguistic diversity, and the United Nations is at the forefront of ...

4 Niagara Parks Commission members turfed - Niagara Review


4 Niagara Parks Commission members turfed - Niagara Review
Published on "freedom of information" - Bing News | shared via feedly
Since then, there's been a maelstrom of controversy, including a freedom-of-information request that revealed he had incurred $395,000 in expenses between 2006 and 2009.

m.guardian.co.uk : WikiLeaks: the revolution has begun – and it will be digitised

"Leaks are not the problem; they are the symptom. They reveal a disconnect between what people want and need to know and what they actually do know. The greater the secrecy, the more likely a leak. The way to move beyond leaks is to ensure a robust regime for the public to access important information."

- Heather Brooke

Monday, November 29, 2010

How to make an FOI Request - Government of Ontario (Canada)


Opening up parliament and getting government IT right


Last week I received two invitations to present.

The first was an invitation to present to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. They are preparing a report on Open Government and would like me to make a short presentation and then answer questions for a couple of hours. This is a ways out but obviously I'm treating it with a significant amount of seriousness - so if you have thoughts or comments on things you think I should share, please feel free to ping me or comment below.

(Speaking of parliament... as an aside, I want again to let developers there know that through some engagement I've been having with the parliamentary IT staff they've informed me they will be releasing a number of data sets in January including the Hansard.)

Second is, next week, I'll be at the United Nations as part of the Expert Group Meeting on the 2012 e-Government Survey: Towards a More Citizen-Centric Approach. My main goal here is to stop getting governments to compare themselves to one another on how "successful" they are in delivering services and information online. With a few notable exceptions, most government websites are at best functional at worst, unnavigable.  Consequently, comparing themselves to one another allows them to feel like all is okay, when really they are collectively trapped in a world of design mediocrity.

Yes, they aren't pretty words, but someone has to say them.

So any thoughts on this subject are welcome as well.

More soon on the hackathon and the census.

Email & Share: Print PDF email Twitter del.icio.us Digg StumbleUpon Slashdot Reddit Facebook Netvibes Technorati Suggest to Techmeme via Twitter Identi.ca

Sunday, November 28, 2010

US fumes over WikiLeaks release of diplomat memos - Big Hollywood

"This is not an academic exercise about freedom of information and it is not akin to the release of the Pentagon Papers, which involved an analysis aimed at saving American lives ...

Battle brews over access to hospital records - Toronto Star

The amendments ask that records created when reviewing medical errors or assessing risk be protected from freedom of information requests. Those in favour of the amendments argue ...

CBC tightlipped about harassment payouts - Toronto Sun


CBC tightlipped about harassment payouts
Toronto Sun
An access to information request filed on behalf of QMI Agency shows that at least 30 invoices were submitted to the CBC for harassment claims in the fiscal ...

and more »

TheSpec - Calls for more disclosure of public sector expenses


Jack Knox: Government should be open, not hiding ... - Times Colonist

Too bad it only took six years of kicking and screaming by the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association to force the government to release the kind of info ...

There's no telling what government gets up to


The Freedom of Information Act: a bad way to run a library | Where can we swim?


Vancouver councillor wants more transparency at ... - News1130.com

Anton says it's also disheartening to hear the city's former Freedom of Information and Privacy manager Paul Hancock quit because he couldn't do his job properly.

Anton wants gag order lifted on Vancouver city employees


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bill McCreery: City hall democracy has suffered ... - Georgia Straight

Examples include blocked freedom-of-information requests, FOI officer Paul Hancock quitting, a lack of budget transparency, and unaccounted for discretionary expenses limits ...

B.C. government ordered to release details of huge ... - Times Colonist

A freedom-of-information group is claiming a big victory over "government secrecy" after the Ministry of Citizens' Services was ordered to release details of a huge ...

Government Internet habits revealed - Toronto Star

The Star originally sought the monthly IT reports under freedom of information legislation in March. The Ministry of Government Services denied their release.

B.C. to disclose more private-sector contracts ... - Times Colonist

After a six-year battle, the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association claimed a huge victory over "government secrecy" Friday when the Citizens' Services ...

Palace now cites Charter in not making FOI bill urgent - Nation - GMANews.TV - Official Website of GMA News and Public Affairs - Latest Philippine News


See who makes $100k or more - Front - TheChronicleHerald.ca


Friday, November 26, 2010

Rights & Democracy Watch: Well, it's a start.

As Former Colleague Wells reports, the on-again-off-again forensic audit enthusiasts on the foreign affairs committee have, indeed, taken up the banner of transparency and accountability on behalf of the suddenly circumspect Rights and Democracy board of directors. From the minutes of yesterday's in camera meeting:

Internet abuse secrecy an outrage: Opposition - Toronto Star

The comments came in response to a front-page Star story about the government's refusal to release under freedom-of-information laws, reports detailing the Internet surfing habits ...

Information policies and access - Manila Bulleting Online

MANILA, Philippines – Right of access to information as had been argued in various debates is a universal right and the most basic of all human rights. The Freedom of ...

Politicians’ salaries shock Valley band residents - Front - TheChronicleHerald.ca

"Band members don't have access to what's going on and that leads to problems. Openness, accountability and transparency are not there," he said.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

ICO under financial pressure from MoJ

The minutes from the latest Information Commissioner's management board meeting show that the ICO is facing significant financial pressure from the Ministry of Justice.
It was reported that £160k of grant in aid had been surrendered to the MoJ as year-in savings...The MoJ had however asked about further in-year savings of grant in aid. Discussions with the MoJ were ongoing. It was noted that the business case for £500k of grant in aid to clear the backlog of freedom of information cases this year has yet to be agreed.
Any reduction in grant-in-aid risks reversing the substantial progress that has been made by the ICO in reducing the backlog over the last 12-18 months.

None of your business - Hamilton Spectator

In addition to computer network security concerns, the ministry cites a clause in provincial freedom-of-information legislation that removes information related to human resources ...

FOI request reveals BBC staff's disciplinary record


Report on chief salaries "grossly misleading": FSIN vice chief Morley Watson | News Talk 650 CKOM


Fourth Eye: Information is power


Congress to prioritize FOI - ABS-CBN

MANILA, Philippines - House Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr. said Thursday the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill will be a priority of the Lower House. He has asked ...

RCMP audit to stay secret until new deal nearly ... - The Vancouver Sun

The BCCLA asked for the audit under freedom of information legislation and has been told the government was considering releasing it. BCCLA executive director David Eby said he ...

Regina City Council must reconsider a proposed ... - Regina Leader-Post

P.J.D. got the letters later on after a freedom of information request was formally launched. "Yet it is undeniable that the decision of city council was heavily ...

Government discloses 5,817 pages of emails ... - Canada East

The emails were obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act. U.S. officials clearly understood the possible economic consequences of their findings.

Secrecy surrounds civil servants’ Internet habits - Toronto Star

In addition to computer network security concerns, the ministry cites a clause in provincial freedom-of-information legislation that removes information related to human resources ...

Aquino wants FOI bill thoroughly reviewed, says Tañada - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Council to monitor Freedom of Information requests - News - getsurrey


FOI Springdale: Who Dares Question Authority?


UPDATED - Transparency's back -- and this time, it's low-to-mid-level bureaucratical - Liveblogging Stockwell Day on hospitality expenses

That seems to be the gist of today's announcement, at least -- that all travel and hospitality expenses will be covered by the proactive disclosure requirements that are currently in place for ministers, exempt staff and senior civil servants. Apparently, it's in response to the NDP's upcoming reveal that the government has spent $125,000,000 on hospitality over the last four years. I'm trying to get hold of the NDP's document dump so we can all follow along -- I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, check back at 12:30 for full coverage! 

Berry-friendly auto-updating text feed available here or hit the jump for the full CoveritLive experience. 

Hidalgo County must release public records on USB Drive


Attorney General Greg Abbott's office has issued a new ruling that constitutes a major open records victory for Texas.  In essence, the County Clerk  in South Texas' Hidalgo County has been told they "…must release public records on a USB Drive…," as requested.  The ruling goes on to say the County cannot make an agreement with its vendor that effectively overrules or repeals the Open Records Act.  Nor can the county adopt a security policy that requires disabling all USB ports on the clerk's computers, if that results in it being more expensive for a requestor to obtain public information.  In other words, if the county does not have a working USB drive – they must buy one.   According to General Abbott's ruling, "The County Clerk has failed to comply with section 552.268 of the Government Code" by refusing to provide the requested information on a USB drive while attempting to charge the requestor $89,624 for the same data, copied on CD's.  AGs Opinion – Hidalgo County Hidalgo Co-AG Complaint

Whither transparency in the next Congress?

from OMB Watch: When the 112th Congress convenes in January, attention will be focused on the newly Republican-controlled House. On transparency issues, House Republican leaders have sounded positive tones. However, it remains to be seen whether bipartisan consensus on meaningful transparency can be achieved or whether transparency will be wielded as a partisan weapon.Undoubtedly, divided party

NPC to make expenses public - Niagara Review

The Globe and Mail made use of freedom of information laws to obtain the expense records, which reportedly included plane fares that cost $9,665 each.

The Freedom of Information Act and public records - Today's THV

In an effort to help Arkansans better understand their law and how it works for them, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel released this consumer alert to address general consumer ...

CREW: DOJ IS A ROADBLOCK TO OPEN GOVERNMENT | Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

CREW: DOJ IS A ROADBLOCK TO OPEN GOVERNMENT | Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

House starts work on Freedom of Information bills - ABS-CBN


Sent to you by Greg via Google Reader:


MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives Committee on Public Information started to tackle the 12 pending Freedom of Information (FOI) bills on Tuesday. Rep. Ben ...


Things you can do from here:


FOI bill to undergo 'further polishing' - Tañada


Sent to you by Greg via Google Reader:


via Google Alerts - "foi" -"ma foi" by ABS CBN News on 11/24/10

As a number of FOI bills have been filed in the House, Tañada said the TWG will "reconcile and consolidate these versions into a single bill, ...
See all stories on this topic »


Things you can do from here:


FOI bill to undergo 'further polishing' - Tañada

FOI bill to undergo 'further polishing' - Tañada: "As a number of FOI bills have been filed in the House, Tañada said the TWG will "reconcile and consolidate these versions into a single bill, ...
See all stories on this topic »"

France proposes police controls on who uses public information

France proposes police controls on who uses public information

Madrid/Paris, 23 November 2010 – A law to be discussed in the French parliament before the end of 2010 will result in the police carrying out “behaviour” checks on members of the public and organisations wanting to reuse information obtained from public bodies. The likely effect is to severely limit access to information and freedom of expression. Read more...

Monday, November 22, 2010

East Haven chief misses FOI hearing after subpoena - Boston Globe

HARTFORD, Conn.— East Haven Police Chief Leonard Gallo has missed a state Freedom of Information Commission hearing despite a subpoena for him to testify about why his department hasn't fully complied with a public records request in an alleged police ...

The Globe and Mail - How Tories could do transparency


Seymour FOI Policy Irks Finance Board Members | Valley Independent Sentinel


Council freedom to charge denied (From Basingstoke Gazette)


Council freedom to charge denied - Andover Advertiser

HAMPSHIRE County Council's attempt to enable councils to charge newspapers for Freedom of Information requests has been swiftly rejected by the Government. Last month ...

[link to original | source: "freedom of information" - Bing News | published: 1 hour ago | shared via feedly]

Man fights for information - Sudbury Star


Sent to you by Greg via Google Reader:


Man fights for information
Sudbury Star
Daigle filed a Freedom of Information request Aug. 23 to obtain storm water man-agement reports from 2004. The reports were part of the approvals process ...


Things you can do from here:


Is FOI the tool of the lazy journalist? | Get a News Job dot com


Just What Is A Freedom Of Information Request Really Worth - Opinion 250 - News for Northern and Central Interior of British Columbia, Canada


No 'open government' here


Australia: Changes to Commonwealth FOI fees and charges - Mondaq

In this legal update, we look at the changes to fees and charges for FOI requests that have recently been announced as part of the broader reforms to the Freedom of Information ...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Conservative council boss says transparency 'will cost' - BBC

Mr Mitchell said the county council already employed two staff to answer Freedom of Information Act queries. "This listing will have over 4,000 items every month for our council ...

#picamp – FOI and Data « Slugger O'Toole


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Government Spending Data Explorer


So… the UK Gov started publishing spending data for at least those transactions over £25,0000. Lots and lots of data. So what? My take on it was to find a quick and dirty way to cobble a query interface around the data, so here's what I spent an hour or so doing in the early hours of last night, and a couple of hours this morning… tinkering with a Gov spending data spreadsheet explorer:

Guardian/gov datastore explorer

The app is a minor reworking of my Guardian datastore explorer, which put some of query front end onto the Guardian Datastore's Google spreadsheets. Once again, I'm exploiting the work of Simon Rogers and co. at the Guardian Datablog, a reusing the departmental spreadsheets they posted last night. I bookmarked the spreadsheets to delicious (here) and use these feed to populate a spreadsheet selector:

Guardian datastore selector - gov spending data

When you select a spreadsheet, you can preview the column headings:

Datastore explorer - preview

Now you can write queries on that spreadsheet as if it was a database. So for example, here are Department for Education spends over a hundred million:

Education spend - over 100 million

The query is built up in part by selecting items from lists of options – though you can also enter values directly into the appropriate text boxes:

Datstrore explorer - build a query

You can bookmark and share queries in the datastore explorer (for example, Education spend over 100 million), and also get URLs that point directly to CSV and HTML versions of the data via Google Spreadsheets.

Several other example queries are given at the bottom of the data explorer page.

For certain queries (e.g. two column ones with a label column and an amount column), you can generate charts – such as Education spends over 250 million:

Education spend - over 250 million

Here's how we construct the query:

Education - query spend over 250 million

If you do use this app, and find some interesting queries, please bookmark them and tag them with wdmmg-gde10, or post a link in a comment below, along with a description of what the query is and why its interesting. I'll try to add interesting examples to the app's list of example queries.

Notes: the datastore explorer is an example of a single web page application, though it draws on several other external services – delicious for the list of spreadsheets, Google spreadsheets for the database and query engine, Google charts for the charts and styled tabular display. The code is really horrible (it evolved as a series of bug fixes on bug fixes;-), but if anyone would like to run with the idea, start coding afresh maybe, and perhaps make a production version of the app, I have a few ideas I could share;-)

CanLII - 2010 BCIPC 51 (CanLII)


CanLII - 2010 BCIPC 53 (CanLII)


CanLII - 2010 BCIPC 58 (CanLII)


At Yale, Bob Woodward blasts WikiLeaks over release ... - New Haven Register

... executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Washington; Colleen Murphy, executive director of the Connecticut Freedom of Information ...

The Globe and Mail - Democracy promotion? Poof, it’s vanished ….

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bob Woodward Discusses the FOIA


Bob Woodward was at Yale recently to discuss among other things, the FOIA.

Department of Justice to Host FOIA Requester Roundtable


The Office of Information Policy of the Department of Justice will host a FOIA Requester Roundtable on December 8, 2010 in Washington, D.C.  Registration closes on December 6.  More details can be found here.

City keeps lid on public information


AG&F official apologizes for proposed rewrite of FOIA | Arkansas News


Illinois House votes to keep public worker evaluations secret - Quad-Cities Times

SPRINGFIELD — Lawmakers moved this week to bar the release of public worker personnel evaluations. On a 77-36 vote, the Illinois House overrode Gov. Pat Quinn's earlier veto of the legislation, which would have barred only police officer evaluations ...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

UBC stalls on animal research disclosure – - Macleans OnCampus


OGWBC Paul Ramsey - Freedom of Information (FOI) panel on Vimeo

David Flaherty, Sean Holman, Blair Lekstrom and David Eaves. Moderated by Paul Ramsey.

[link to original | source: Google Alerts - "foi" -"ma foi" | published: 11 hours ago | shared via feedly]

Government suppliers may be ordered to open up data

Private companies may be required to open up data and make their activities answerable to Freedom of Information (FoI) law when they are contracted to work ...
See all stories on this topic »

[link to original | source: Google Alerts - "foi" -"ma foi" | published: 6 hours ago | shared via feedly]

Niagara Parks executive's expense claims passed audit scrutiny, ex-chairman says - Globe and Mail

Globe and Mail

Niagara Parks executive's expense claims passed audit scrutiny, ex-chairman says
Globe and Mail
... credit card and claimed $23950 in out-of-pocket expenses, according to records The Globe and Mail obtained through a freedom-of-information request. ...
Niagara Parks Commission executive charged $395000 on corporate cardGlobe and Mail
Axe should fall at NPC, Craitor saysNiagara Falls Review

all 14 news articles »

B.C. Ferries staff, family ride for free - The Province

B.C. Ferries staff, family ride for free
The Province
A freedom of information request revealed BC Ferries has more than 4252 "unlimited" travel employee passes in circulation right now. ...
Over 7000 free passes given out to BC Ferry workers and familiesGlobe and Mail
Thousands riding BC Ferries free of chargeCKNW News Talk 980

all 16 news articles »

No boondoggles in the Sault, SAH/boards disclosure ... - Sault Ste. Marie This Week

"The second part relates to the use of lobbyists...The third part would extend Freedom of Information legislation to the hospital sector," he said in an e-mail.

[link to original | source: "freedom of information" - Bing News | published: 4 hours ago | shared via feedly]

New post; old business: Nova Scotia "Right to Know" Week Forum (September 28, 2010 University of Kings College, Halifax)

A forum initiated by the Canadian Association of Professional Access and Privacy Administrators with the active support of our Coalition and the blessing of the independent FOI Review Office was held September 28, 2010 at King's College, Alumni Hall.

The main speaker was Fred Vallance-Jones, a professor at King's Journalism School and author of the annual freedom of information audit by the Canadian Newspapers Association. He spoke, of course, about the audit.

This was followed by three panels organized by the coalition which I moderated. The first offered the Nova Scotia Government Freedom of Information Administrator and a former DM Justice an opportunity to speak to the government's approach to the provincial Freedom of Information Act.

Two members of the legislature, one from the government caucus and the other from the opposition Liberal caucus were the second panel. The government rep., of course, was expected to defend the government's openness and accountability. The one-year-old NDP government, while in opposition, was a devoted supporter of the FOI Act, and used it often and effectively. Not so much devoted in government... no surprise to anyone. The Liberal rep. was a new MLA, just 26 years old. Both politicians were reasonable and polite and intelligent..The young Liberal used to be a student in the government member's pol-sci class.

The last panel was made up of three seasoned journalists, all of whom are users of the FOI Act in their efforts to wrest information from the government.  They were joined by a young woman, a recent graduate of King's J-School.  The journalists' panel was predictably and particularly critical of government's lack of enthusiasm for the FOI Act. Questions from the audience, several of whom were government FOI administrators not exactly in accord with the views of the cranky journalists, continued until the lights dimmed.

Toby Mendel, the Executive Director of the new Halifax-based Centre for Law and Democracy and an expert in international access to information laws, compared, Canadian access legislation unfavourably with many of the other countries who have adopted right to know legislation. Toby, who travels frequently in other countries, is an enthusiastic and welcome new member of our coalition.

Organizing panels can be a tough job for a small, impecunious coalition the directors of which are busy, busy with jobs and families. The only unemployed member is the guy they elected President. Go figure!

Thanks for your interest and thanks to CAPAPA for spearheading the effort.

Darce Fardy
Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia
(902) 422-1481
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Trotman to move for introduction of FOI bill - Stabroek News - Guyana


The 4 year anniversary of the RTKCNS website!

I was dredging through some of the original posts and realized that our anniversary had sailed by. The Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia website was officially launched November 14, 2006. Four years and a couple of thousand FOI news posts later, we are still here.

Thanks to all our visitors over the years.


Animal advocacy group claims UBC ignoring freedom ... - The Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - The organization Stop UBC Animal Research claims UBC is ignoring provincial freedom of information regulations after missing a deadline to provide the ...

[link to original | source: "freedom of information" - Bing News | published: 20 hours ago | shared via feedly]

UBC accused of withholding information - Calgary Herald

The organization Stop UBC Animal Research claims the University of B.C. is ignoring provincial freedom-of-information regulations after missing a deadline to provide ...

[link to original | source: "freedom of information" - Bing News | published: 6 hours ago | shared via feedly]

Monday, November 15, 2010

SSRN-Democratization as a Rationale for Freedom of Information Reform in China by Weibing Xiao


SSRN-The Constitutional Right to Know by Roy Peled, Yoram Rabin


Elections Canada wants parties to document expenses - Canada - TheChronicleHerald.ca


Understanding Closed Meetings in the Ontario ... - Elliot Lake Standard

From my reading of the Ontario Municipal Act and other related pieces of legislation such as Ontario Municipal Conflict of Interest Act and Ontario Freedom of Information and ...

Bypass FOIA and seek data from agencies, says Obama official

White House transparency deputy says open government officers will cooperate and accelerate document disclosure.

Open and Shut: "New disclosure czar hits ground running"


Transparency subject of forum - Maine Campus

News | Transparency subject of forum Freedom of Information access covered. Haley Richardson. Associate professor of new media Jon Ippolito discusses transparency in ...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

canadaeast.com - NDP bill gives Ombudsman power to probe hospitals, municipalities, schools, CAS | Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press - Breaking News, New Brunswick, Canada


David Higgerson - FOI: Seven ways councils can make FOI cost less


Ontario pension fund execs living it up - Canada - Canoe.ca


Open Data: Appetite vs. Reality


Tech-savvy governments are adopting new transparency policies for "Open Data," broad pronouncements intended to create things like a "presumption of openness," or to declare a city "Open."

These declarations are fantastic. They reinforce commitments to transparency, raise public expectations, give cover to sympathetic government officials who already want to do good work.

Unfortunately, these policies also face severe limitations. When faced with the daunting complexities of public access, government directives often punt. They dissemble, hedge, exempt, and accomodate. They leave difficult decisions to task forces, designated administrators, and future plans.

For example, here is part of the San Francisco Open Data ordinance, as it was introduced:

Each City department, board, commission, and agency ("Department") shall make available all data sets under the Department's control, provided however, that such disclosure shall be consistent with the rules and standards promulgated by the Committee on Information Technology ("COIT").

Seems straightforward enough: agencies have to follow the standards that will be created by the technology authority.

Here are the changes that came out of the committee, though:

AMENDED on Page 2, Lines 2-6 by adding 'make reasonable efforts to' after 'shall'; deleting 'all' after 'available'; adding 'and with applicable law, including laws related to privacy' after '("COIT")'; Page 3, Line 2 by deleting 'all' after 'accounting of'; and on Page 3, Line 5 by replacing 'would' with 'could'.

Those changes are comical. The ordinance now mandates that agencies have to try to follow the standards set by the IT oversight body, to release some information based on an audit of some subset of public data.

This is the language of the low-hanging fruit — the kind of aspirational mandate that isn't really a mandate at all, but more of a statement of goals and principles, lofty rhetoric with a roadmap made up of other road maps, and plans for other plans.

Again, this declaration, and the others like it, aren't inappropriate. Their effects probably vary based on the context, based the actual commitment of everyone involved, from government officials to citizens.

If all these declarations do is to win some of the easy fights, then they're well worth the effort, because those obvious decisions (like open local transit data) have been gotten wrong far too often in the past, and can have significant positive effects when they're gotten right.

We need to avoid, however, thinking that these top-level political declarations are something they aren't. Governments have a vast stores of information, and most of it won't be reached by these pronouncements. There's a whole world between the initial urge for government to "put all its data online" and the "please try to put some data online better when you remember to" that that urge decays into. At the first sign of trouble, "all" disappears, "must" becomes "should," and a mandate becomes a suggestion. The San Francisco ordinance demonstrates just how far a vision for transparency can be from the kind of nuance and structure that makes it possible.

That gap between goals and policies — the long haul of transparency advocacy — will only be filled through hard work, and focused questions about how our governments control their information. Why are legislatures so inept at information policy oversight? Why are IT procurement authorities expected to be competent at controlling access to information? What kind of systematic approaches can audit and characterize government information generally? Why are existing audit and indexing requirements routinely ignored? If e-government and information laws become stale and ineffective so quickly, what can replace them? How can stakeholders and the public at large force the issue?

Those are one approach to the answers we're really after. What isn't public, but should be? What is now public, but isn't online? What should change about what is already posted online? And ultimately, how much can this access truly transform our governments?

Information policy is now only a shadow of its future self. The "presumption of openness" is better than what often grows in its absence (cf. Ashcroft), but it's no replacement for the thousand tough decisions that get made across governments every day.

Open Government Directives and Open Data Laws are great. They're not a silver bullet, though, and the ways they fall short will be instructive about the kinds of work that lie ahead.

Secret Meech Lake talks remain secret - Globe and Mail

"The sentiment against freedom of information legislation is at least as strong within the bureaucracy as it is within the political world," he said.

Time and staff costs of FOI


Saturday, November 13, 2010

TCOG Blog - Records audit finds problems in FOI at the University of Memphis November 12, 2010 @ 9:55 am › Jennifer Peebles


Feds urged to revive FOI central registry - Canada ...

Feds urged to revive FOI central registry - Canada ...: "The best source of local news in Nova Scotia, featuring articles from The Chronicle Herald, breaking news, sports, entertainment, business, national news, ...

FOI reform bill to receive second Commons reading today

FOI reform bill to receive second Commons reading today: "The bill responds to alleged "delaying tactics" used by public authorities when handling FOI requests, says Brake in Hansard. "In 2009, 1551 requests to ...
See all stories on this topic »"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Blogger could face jail time and fine for ... - YAHOO!

"I'd never heard of a case where information released under a Freedom of Information request was then ordered to be taken down.'' The data in question was published on Oct ...

Webmaster Urged To Remove State Information - Boston Channel

Using a Freedom of Information request, Morisey asked the state for information about food stamps -- where they're used and how much people are spending.

Government will debate OSPCA's authority - Era Banner

While there is no government oversight of the agency, more disturbing is the fact it is not accountable to the public, does not qualify under the Freedom of Information Act ...

MuckRock | the easiest way for journalists, bloggers, interest groups and everyday citizens to file, track and share documents through freedom of information laws. You have a right to know what you're government is up to; We make sure you can.


Massachusetts FOIA Flap

Massachusetts has alerted a website operator that he could face jail time for failing to take down data released to him through a freedom of information request. According to a Thursday report in The Boston Globe, Massachusetts' Department of Transitional Assistance sent Michael Morisy, cofounder of MuckRock.com, a website devoted...

FOI campaigners agnry with Conwy Council - North Wales Weekly News


(Massachusetts) State tells man he may be jailed for releasing data

from boston.com: Governor Deval Patrick's administration told a local website operator he could face jail time for publishing information that the state provided under an open-records request.It is unclear whether officials would or could follow through with the threat to Michael Morisy, cofounder of MuckRock (muckrock.com), a website devoted to open records. But the unusual letter, also

Public Records: It May Soon Cost You – Just for Looking


As it currently stands, if you want to look at emails from a governing body and you request they be produced for "inspection only" in most cases you don't get charged.  It's considered a type of customer service on demand.  It is legal for cities to charge you actual costs for both manpower labor and copying expenses, however, if you request actual paper copies.  But the Texas Municipal League is hoping to change that during the upcoming 82nd Legislative Session.  Following the lead of the City of San Antonio, the municipalities primary lobbying organization in Austin is supporting a legislative push to charge you for looking as well.

Gov 2.0 - Computerworld Australia

Freedom of information (FoI) requests to the Federal government could soon be streamlined when Gov 2.0 lead agency, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO ...

N.S. auditor general to get more access to government documents - Front - TheChronicleHerald.ca


Metro - Toronto : Canada : New act broadens N.S. auditor general's scope




Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Access to Government Information Expands | News Releases | Government of Nova Scotia

Government will be more open with information and subject to more complete examination with proposed changes to modernize the Auditor General Act.

The amendments, tabled in the legislature today, Nov. 10, will improve government accountability by giving the auditor general broader and more comprehensive access to information, allowing him to do a more thorough audit. 

They will clarify his independence from the executive branch of government, strengthening his role to conduct performance audits. The amendments will tighten the definition of the government entities he may audit, clarifying his scope and responsibilities.

"These amendments will help the auditor general to do more thorough and comprehensive audits, resulting in better, more open reporting to Nova Scotians," said Finance Minister Graham Steele. "They will ensure government continues to be able to receive full and frank advice to support decision-making." 

The provisions in the act about access to information clarify the auditor general office's access to Cabinet and solicitor-client documents, and require the auditor general to keep the content of these confidential documents private. The act also outlines a process to decide which documents are confidential, when that is not immediately clear.

The auditor general reports to the House of Assembly, issues independent opinions on government financial reports, and conducts performance audits on public-sector operations. The office has 34 staff and produces two or more audit reports each year.

The proposed legislation amendments were developed in consultation with, and are supported by, the auditor general's office.

"This act significantly improves accountability in government," said Auditor General Jacques Lapointe. "It settles the question of audit access to people and documents, and settles it in favour of greater openness. "This is important legislation that improves our ability to provide meaningful and constructive information to the House of Assembly."

The act will come into force when it is passed in the legislature.


     The province is proposing changes to legislation that will

give the auditor general broader access to information in Cabinet

and legal documents.

     Finance Minister Graham Steele says the amendments will help

the auditor general to do more thorough and comprehensive audits,

resulting in better, more open reporting to Nova Scotians. 

     The proposed amendments to the legislation were developed in

consultation with the auditor general's office.


Media Contact: Valerie Bellefontaine
              Department of Finance
              Cell: 902-499-4767
              E-mail: bellefva@gov.ns.ca