Monday, January 31, 2011

MPs call for review of use of freedom of information legislation in scientific research -- Billingsley 342 --

Clark, Abbott commit to creating "open data ... - The Vancouver Sun
Vincent Gogolek, executive director of the non-partisan BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, noted the candidates surveyed seemed more willing to support open data ...

Max Pemberton: Finger on the Pulse - Daily Telegraph
But last week, thanks to freedom of information requests made by this newspaper, the true cost of involving the private sector has been revealed – and the government ...

Public takes advantage of changes to open government laws - The Southern
But, several proposed laws pending in the new General Assembly would carve out new exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act. For example, House Bill 7, sponsored by state Rep ...

Guest post – re-use of disclosed information — FOI Man

Special guests on agenda for last Freedom of Information Act classes - Register Citizen
TORRINGTON - The third and final Freedom of Information Act class with Andy Thibault as instructor is this Wednesday February 2. The 11 a.m. class will have South ...

Watchdog Groups Appeal State Department’s Refusal ... - Common Dreams
The groups allege that the failure of the State Department to comply with its responsibility under the Freedom of Information Act further calls into question Secretary Clinton's ...

FOIFT Joins Call to White House to Re-Calibrate DOJ’s FOI Position

In a letter, co-signed by 25  open-government groups and individuals, the Freedom of Information of Texas is calling upon the White House to direct the Department of Justice to re-calibrate its position regarding the release of public information.  This request follows a response to questions directed to Assistant Solicitor General Anthony M. Yang during oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court.  At a January 19, 2011 hearing, when Yang was asked if FOI exemptions should be narrowly interpreted, he reportedly replied "…stating such would 'distort' the 'very important values' Congress intended to protect through the FOIA's exemptions."  This directly contradicts an FOIA policy directive President Obama issued upon taking office.  Open Government Letter to the White House (1-31-11).

FOI inspired WikiLeaks: lawyer

Sunday, January 30, 2011

CBS 60 minutes Assange overtime video : @wikileaks, 1/30/11 8:56 PM

WikiLeaks (@wikileaks)
1/30/11 8:56 PM
CBS 60 minutes Assange overtime video

Fellows Friday with Evgeny Morozov
The Internet may help authoritarian regimes more than it hurts them, argues Evgeny Morozov in his new book, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom. Born to a mining family in Belarus, Evgeny himself was once a firm believer in the power of new media to liberate oppressed people. His experience and research, however, have convinced him of the need to shift from "cyber-utopianism" to "cyber-realism."

Interactive Fellows Friday Feature!
Join the conversation by answering Fellows' weekly questions via Facebook. 

Would You Volunteer More If You Could Do So in Your Pajamas?

It is a lazy Sunday afternoon and though I haven't left the house once, I've spent most of my day volunteering for a nonprofit. In the time that it would normally take to browse Facebook or clear out my Google Reader, I was able to help a Czech Internet nonprofit craft their social media strategy, right from the comfort of my own living room. 

The site that made this digital volunteering experience possible is called Sparked, and it is the world's "first micro-volunteering network." With the tagline "Online volunteering for busy people," Sparked is CEO Jacob Colker and CTO Ben Rigby's answer to a problem that many working professionals face: finding free time in our chaotic lives to volunteer for the causes we care about.

"Sparked is really the evolution of three years worth of trial and error," says Colker. Originally coined The Extraordinaries, Sparked began as a mobile app designed by Colker, Rigby, and others that "allowed people to add image tags to archives while standing in line at Starbucks." But, says Colker, "The truth is, after awhile there's only so many images that one person is willing to tag. While that was a hugely successful platform, it wasn't the broad sweeping impact we wanted to have for the nonprofit sector."

With Sparked, a web-based platform that will soon boast mobile integration, Colker and Rigby now have a chance to influence the change they believe the web is capable of facilitating. Since The Extraordinaries launched, over 150,000 people have signed up as micro-volunteers, and Sparked itself has between 10 and 30 nonprofits register every day. It helps that the site is remarkably easy to use: when an individual volunteer signs up, he or she lists their skills and the causes they care about most. Sparked then culls challenges from nonprofits that require those skills, and users can choose which ones to take on. The challenges can be anything from critiquing an organization's tagline to redesigning an entire website. "Sparked is a skill-based platform," says Colker. "We appeal really well to professionals who have years of expertise who are also incredibly busy people."

So far, Sparked has generated a number of successes, from larger projects like helping a Kenyan village gain access to fresh water to smaller but no less impactful ones, like redesigning a Romanian Tech organization's banner ad.

"74% of the United States doesn't volunteer, and the overwhelming reason is that they're just too busy to engage," says Colker. While Sparked won't convince everyone to transfer their energy from Facebook stalking to social good, it certainly dismantles several of the barriers that prevent working professionals from volunteering—and judging from the amount of hours wasted online each week, finding the time to micro-volunteer shouldn't prove too difficult. 

At Sunshine Review, shedding light on government transparency
Sunshine Review, a non-profit government watchdog, grades government websites for transparency and disclosure at the state, city and local levels....

Public takes advantage of Illinois open government laws - Quad-Cities Times
But several proposed laws pending in the new General Assembly would carve out new exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act. For example, House Bill 7, sponsored by state Rep ...

Probe of missing records sought - NovaScotia -

Nominations for FOI awards open - Tulsa World
According to a news release, the Ben Blackstock Award is presented to a non-governmental person or organization that has shown a commitment to freedom of information.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Scotland's FoI to be 'strengthened' - Public Service - Liberals call for NB Liquor transparency | Times & transcript staff - Breaking News, New Brunswick, Canada

Civic Engagement Tool Give a Minute Heads to New York City

New Yorkers, get ready to have your say about the role sustainability plays in your city. Give a Minute, the civic engagement platform, is headed to your town, and is looking for the best ideas to green your neighborhood. I first wrote about Give a Minute's launch in Chicago back in November, where an incredible 2,000 ideas flooded in for improving Chicago's transit culture.

Give a Minute works like a virtual suggestion box: It poses a question to urban residents through viral and traditional marketing, and encourages them to respond via text, Twitter, or a website post. The ideas are then aggregated on Post-It note style graphics on a giant digital whiteboard

The platform was designed by Local Projects in partnership with CEOs for Cities and the Rockefeller Foundation, and in New York, it has a big-time sponsor: Give a Minute's question asking New Yorkers how they'd green their neighborhoods will be included with the rollout of PlaNYC 2030, Mayor Bloomberg's massive sustainability program, in May.

The coolest thing about Give a Minute is that it gives big-time politicos and heads of government agencies a chance to actually respond to the suggestions from city residents. So Mayor Mike can actually "endorse" an idea that he likes and offer feedback that goes directly back to the person who suggested it. We think he'll actually comment, too, since Bloomberg is totally behind the idea, offering this quote: "This kind of open call for ideas—or 'crowdsourcing,' as it's called—has helped cutting-edge companies like Facebook and Netflix improve services and save money. And with more than 8.4 million people in our crowd, imagine what we can come up with."

Since the first launch in Chicago, Local Projects' Jake Barton and his team have been streamlining and improving the application, and the platform now allows people to create "action groups" around specific things that need to happen to make ideas reality. If you input a specific idea like rain barrels, you're immediately invited to join the appropriate action group in your neighborhood. "The city has resources to actualize some solutions, from planting trees, to mitigating storm water, to creating pocket parks," says Barton. "But it's wider then just the city, as neighborhood groups can use this to organize around an idea, raise funds through Kickstarter, meet face to face through Meetup, or create an advocacy group by getting more people on board."

Give a Minute's new incarnation is exactly the kind of translation from awareness to action that we've been hoping a web-based tool like this can provide. Barton says the way it will be set up for New York, it should be able to accommodate all kinds of ideas. "Big ideas can get enough attention to really create change, grants, and be implemented, and that small groups can gather their neighbors together to address very local issues," he says. "The project is really looking for change at all scales, and ideally it brings together the city and its collective resources for positive change."

BC Ferries Freedom of Information policy leads to more media mistakes - The Paper Trail with Chad Skelton

TheSpec - Sunshine, please on power deal

Transparency In The SOTU

President Obama's mentioned several of Sunlight's core issues in his State of the Union Address issues last night. A closer look at what he said, and what he said last year, helps to sort out the rhetoric from the reality.


Here's President Obama, last night:

And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren't larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: if a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it... A 21st century government that's open and competent.

This is a new development, and a departure from his request last year, in January of 2010:

I'm also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform. Applause.) Democrats and Republicans. (Applause.) Democrats and Republicans. You've trimmed some of this spending, you've embraced some meaningful change. But restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online. (Applause.) Tonight, I'm calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before there's a vote, so that the American people can see how their money is being spent. (Applause.)

In 2010, Obama called for earmark transparency. In 2011, he issues an outright veto threat. What has changed?

After Obama's initial call for an earmarks database, lawmakers (and Sunlight) took his call seriously, crafting the Earmark Transparency Act in both the House and the Senate. They had broad bipartisan support, and the Senate bill even passed out of committee. The White House was silent, and uninvolved.

Unfortunately, a veto threat is an unlikely fix to our earmark issues. It's unclear how long it'll last, or whether it's a threat that Congress will accept. Even if they do, no one expects earmarks to end, but instead to continue under a different procedure -- phonemarking, lettermarking, and who knows what else. (We're calling those "nearmarks").  Members of Congress can still direct funds to pet projects; they'll just be harder to track, and further from the public eye.

The only ultimately reliable authority to appeal to on spending is public scrutiny. That's what Obama called for last year. Too bad he didn't follow through. It's difficult not to interpret the earmark veto threat with skepticism, as part of an escalating anti-washington political arms race, rather than a well-considered solution to a real problem.

Campaign Finance Disclosure

After the Citizens United decision, President Obama became a fierce ally for legislation to create disclosure in its wake. He made countless speeches and radio addresses, and the White House was heavily involved in trying to get the effort passed. Senate Republicans ultimately blocked the effort, even after an initiative to introduce a disclosure-only bill.

Given that history, it's surprising that this issue didn't show up at all in last night's speech. The cynical view is that Democrats are planning ways to benefit from campaign finance deregulation; perhaps Republican control of the House makes a disclosure bill less likely to pass. In any case, it's a huge reversal for the reform issue perhaps closest to Obama's heart to get a goose egg in the SOTU.




With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections. (Applause.) I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. (Applause.) They should be decided by the American people. And I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.


Last night's speech saw one particular call for lobbying reform:

Because you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting with lobbyists, I ask Congress to do what the White House has already done: put that information online.

That sounds like a good idea, but unfortuntely it's expressed in State of the Union shorthand, and glosses over a pile of complexity. There are two sets of policies that Obama could be referring to when he says that they've "already done" lobbying disclosure.

First is the visitor logs, which the White House released as a result of a CREW lawsuit. They allow anyone to see records of most visitors to the White House posted online four months after the visits occur. These are meaningful disclosures, and allowed Sunlight's Paul Blumenthal to reconstruct the lobbying and dealmaking that went into the healthcare bill.

But that doesn't mean that they're an effective lobbying disclosure system. The design of the WAVES system is an artifact of how security officers track who enters and leaves the White House system -- a far cry from the lobbying disclosure so necessary to holding officials accountable.

Secondly, Obama could be referring to the lobbying disclosures the Executive Branch is voluntarily making around focused issues. There are such policies now applied to TARP, the stimulus, and now to the Dodd-Frank bill. Again, these are meaningful policies, worthy of broad praise, and further analysis. But they're insufficient for the White House to say they're "already done." These policies are easy to evade, and often rely on the outdated and ineffective definitions from the Lobbyist Disclosure Act.

The real fix is the sort of fundamental reform to our lobbying disclosure system that we've described in our bill on PublicMarkup, and posted for public review and commentary.

Having the President push for such a measure would improve its prognosis significantly. Unfortunately, it's unclear whether the line in last night's speech was the opening salvo in a new lobbying reform initiative, or a temporary jab at the legislature intended to garner praise for existing White House initiatives.

If "we do big things" then real-time, online lobbying disclosure should be one of them.


Obama also mentioned the following line:

Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax dollars are being spent, you will be able to go to a website and get that information for the very first time in history.

This is rather cryptic. It's possible that this refers to a proposal to create a digital receipt for after paying your taxes, which has been floating around in different versions for several years. But that's a guess.

The site already provides details on how the government spends money on grants and contracts, although the data they're using is largely unreliable.  If the government is going to add to this accounting, they should fix those problems first.


Compared to last year's speech, 2011's ideas were derivative and rhetorical.  Since there is no dedicated staffer at the White House pursuing ethics and transparency, it looks like the Obama's leadership on this issue is slipping.

As the White House staff shakeup continues, and in the absence of the not-to-be-replaced Ethics Czar, we're left wondering whether we've already seen the best of the transparency of the Obama Administration.

Avon: FOI Commission Dismisses Complaints Over Board of Education Minutes -,0,4386130.story

I Like All the FOI Improvement Bills I am Seeing!

A bill setting a time limit for government groups and other public bodies to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests is headed for the state Senate after passing the House unanimously Tuesday night.

House Bill 5, sponsored by Dover Democrat Brad Bennett, would require FOIA requests be granted within 15 business days, unless the request is for large amounts of information, requires legal advice, or the records involved are in storage.

If the deadline is extended, the government agency involved has to tell whoever made the request about the extension within 15 business days.

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Filed under: 3. Access law Tagged: Delaware, Freedom of information legislation

Clark, Abbott commit to creating 'open data ... - The Vancouver Sun
Vincent Gogolek, executive director of the non-partisan BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, noted the candidates surveyed seemed more willing to support ...

Monday, January 24, 2011 : Big society plans raise concerns for parliamentary democracy

Majority of Alberta government document requests ... - Calgary Herald
... cent of Albertans who asked for access to government records got some or all of the information they wanted to see, compared to 62 per cent in 1995, when the freedom of information ...

If knowledge is power, many Albertans are left powerless - Calgary Herald
If you've ever put a request for information through the government's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act you'd be forgiven for thinking the FOIP acronym stands ...

FreedomInfo | Tanzanian Official Pledges Action on FOI Legislation

Five Websites that Publish Declassified Documents - Associated Content
The Black Vault-- Despite the name, a legal site that publishes information obtained from the American government through Freedom of Information Act requests.

House panel wants Homeland Security documents on FOIA requests - Tampa Bay Online
WASHINGTON — A House committee has asked the Homeland Security Department to provide documents about an agency policy that required political appointees to review many Freedom of Information Act requests, according to a letter obtained today by The ...

The crown gets a veil of secrecy, as new British law protects queen's secrets - Chicago Tribune,0,1053715.story
LONDON (AP) — What happens in the palace stays in the palace. A new British law that took effect Wednesday makes Queen Elizabeth II , Prince Charles and Prince William exempt from freedom of information laws, meaning many private details of their lives ...

David Higgerson: FOI: The benefits of saying a story is FOI-based … and where it came from January 23, 2011

Fayemi forwards FOI Bill to Assembly - Punch
Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has forwarded the Freedom of Information Bill to the House of Assembly for passage into Law. Fayemi disclosed this on Sunday while ...

McNally: FOI enthusiasm or the sticky note culture - BBC
Lord McNally, the minister in charge of freedom of information policy, says he once tried to submit an FOI request himself. He submitted his application to Network Rail - only ...

Corporations get personal with information requests - Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
The dispute involves the Freedom of Information Act, which gives groups and individuals the opportunity to obtain information in the hands of executive branch agencies.

White House transparency critiqued at D.C. conference

21 Jan 2011 // Leading experts on transparency issues and representatives of the Obama administration gathered Thursday at American University's Washington College of Law for the "Transparency in the Obama Administration: A Second-Year Assessment" conference. More»

CANOE -- Technology: Canton - E-mail access denial challenged by IPC

MP slams police FOI stonewall | The Australian

Councils find FOI a pain - but they have the cure - The Tony Collins Blog

The High Price of Transparency in India

Expertly documented by this New York Times story in yesterday's paper:

Amit Jethwa had just left his lawyer's office after discussing a lawsuit he had filed to stop an illicit limestone quarry with ties to powerful local politicians. That is when the assassins struck, speeding out of the darkness on a roaring motorbike, pistols blazing. He died on the spot, blood pouring from his mouth and nose. He was 38.

Mr. Jethwa was one of millions of Indians who had embraced the country's five-year-old Right to Information Act, which allows citizens to demand almost any government information. People use the law to stop petty corruption and to solve their most basic problems, like getting access to subsidized food for the poor or a government pension without having to pay a bribe, or determining whether government doctors and teachers are actually showing up for work

Related articles
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Filed under: 1. Records that matter, 3. Access law Tagged: India, New York Times, Right to Information Act

MnCOGI accepting nominations for 2011 John R. Finnegan FOI Award
from Minnesota Coalition on Government Information: The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information is soliciting nominations for a person, group of people or organization that demonstrates a commitment to the power of information.Past recipients include Colleen Coghlan, a college librarian outspoken on open access, the Urban Coalition, a Minneapolis organization that uses information to build

Workshop on ADB Openness Policy

Date: January 24, 2011 4:18:58 AM AST
Subject: Workshop on ADB Openness Policy

24 January 2011: For immediate release

Workshop Calls for Bold Measures in ADB's Openness Policy

Today, 24 January 2011, the Global Transparency Initiative (GTI) hosted a
Workshop with key stakeholders, including senior ADB representatives, to
discuss the second draft Public Communications Policy (PCP) prepared by
the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The Workshop provided a chance for civil
society and ADB representatives to discuss the further changes that are
needed to bring the draft PCP fully into line with international standards
on information disclosure, ahead of the 16 February discussion by the
Board of Directors on the draft Policy.

At the Workshop the GTI provided ADB representatives with a document
entitled Proposed Amendments by the GTI to the Second Consultation Draft
of the PCP. The Proposed Amendments, prepared by Toby Mendel of CLD and
Nepomuceno Malaluan of the Philippine Access to Information Network,
presents in track changes the specific amendments GTI is proposing for the
new policy.

"We welcome the positive changes that the ADB is proposing in its new
draft Policy," said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. "But if the
ADB wants to do more than just keep pace with other international
financial institutions, it needs to adopt a bolder vision. It should, in
particular, show leadership by heralding in greater Board openness and
limiting the third party exception to sensitive business information."

Other key demands presented at the Workshop included:
•    Removing the proposed power of the Board and President to trump
disclosure, even when information is not covered by an exception.
•    Broadening the powers of the Independent Appeals Panel to at least make
recommendations in cases involving a refusal by the Board or President to
disclose information.
•    Taking more direct responsibility for ensuring effective access by
affected people, including through a commitment to develop project
communication plans jointly with implementing partners.

When it adopted its new policy in 2005, the ADB was at the forefront of
IFI transparency but it has now fallen behind. We call on the ADB to take
the initiative and once again adopt an information disclosure policy that
breaks new ground.

The Proposed Amendments are available at:

For further information, please contact:
Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
tel: +1 902 431-3688

Friday, January 21, 2011

Simcoe Article: Council wants to speed up the availability of information

Open-government initiative marks two-year milestone


Open-government initiative marks two-year milestone
Published on News Articles | shared via feedly
Expert Don Tapscott shares insight on what he believes should be the transparency initiative's future.

Harper's democratic record wins little praise


Harper's democratic record wins little praise
Published on Google Alerts - secrecy canada | shared via feedly
Promises of the most transparent government in Canadian history were soon overshadowed by an obsession with secrecy and a wanton disregard for Parliamentary ...
See all stories on this topic »

Transparency and the state


Transparency and the state
"You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop…I quake at the imbecility of it." So Tony Blair berates himself in his memoirs for passing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which came into force in 2005. The realities of power transformed him from an advocate of official openness into a despairing critic.

Mr Blair's jaded attitude seems not yet to have infected the coalition government, which is planning to let a little more light into the tenebrous corridors of Whitehall. In opposition, both David Cameron and Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, promised to promote transparency. It is a cause that Mr Clegg's Liberal Democrats have long championed, arguing that it will improve the workings of government, while the Tories see informed citizens and an open state as essential conditions of their plans to devolve power.

To those ends, the government intends to broaden the scope of the FOIA, extending it to currently uncovered parts of the state, among them the Association of Chief Police Officers, an outfit that sets much policing policy, as well as the regulators that oversee many privatised industries. The government also plans to reduce the length of time that official records remain sealed from 30 years to 20 (the rule looks rather quaint now that former ministers publish tell-all memoirs within months of leaving office).

Other changes are already revealing more details of how government works. The Downing Street website features a new "transparency" section that discloses, among other things, which lobbyists and potentates are meeting which ministers and when. All central-government spending of more than £25,000 must be published, as well as local government spending of over £500. The government is keen, at least in theory, to make available much of the data that it holds, for the perusal and analysis of "armchair auditors" and enthusiastic nerds (see article).
Britain's small but vocal freedom-of-information lobby has given the plans a cautious welcome. Maurice Frankel, who runs the Campaign for Freedom of Information, is heartened that the government has pressed ahead despite having plenty of other things on its plate.

Nevertheless, much will remain whelmed in mystery. Messrs Cameron and Clegg both promised before the general election that the new regime would cover Network Rail, an oddly constituted body laden with publicly backed debt that runs Britain's railway tracks. That idea seems to have been ditched. Northern Rock, a bank nationalised in 2008, will escape scrutiny; the rules concerning the royal family are to be tightened. Private firms that administer parts of the NHS, criminal justice, schools and other public services will also be exempt (Scotland, which has separate laws, is considering making big contractors subject to FOI requests).

And changing the rules might not, by itself, fix a cultural resistance to scrutiny within some bits of government. Heather Brooke, a journalist who did much of the spadework that led to the revelations over dodgy expense claims by MPs, thinks that parts of the British state are run "almost feudally," and remain resistant to explaining their workings to mere voters. She argues that better enforcement of the existing system would do more to inform the public of what is done in its name than fiddling with it. That might be a vain hope: the Information Commissioner's Office, which enforces the Freedom of Information Act, has a hefty backlog of cases—and, under the government's austerity plans, is facing cuts.

Email ‘Obviously’ Violated Texas Open Meetings Law


Email 'Obviously' Violated Texas Open Meetings Law

In Denton, Texas a long-running feud between members of that city's Airport Advisory Board and its city leaders is heating up.  The airport manager says one of the board members "obviously" violated state law when he sent an email to other board members suggesting they file a complaint with the Texas Attorney General about city officials.  You might remember this feud from last December.   The Texas Open Meetings Act requires any discussion involving a majority of a governmental entity to be held during a scheduled public meeting.  A plan is currently being considered by the city that would do away with the airport board altogether – which is reportedly the reason the board member sent the email in the first place – but that's still not allowed under the law.

FYI Ottawa, FOI imperfect


FYI Ottawa, FOI imperfect
Published on Google Alerts - "foi" -"ma foi" | shared via feedly
A recent study shows Canada's freedom of information system (FOI) places last among five of its progressive peers on the world stage, including the UK, ...
See all stories on this topic »

Province says tax changes paying off for Ontarians - Toronto Star


Province says tax changes paying off for Ontarians - Toronto Star
Published on "freedom of information" - Bing News | shared via feedly
"People are not that gullible," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, whose party has long been seeking the treasury numbers through requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

FreedomInfo | FOI Notes: EU Case Summary, US FOI Day


FreedomInfo | FOI Notes: EU Case Summary, US FOI Day
Published on Google Alerts - "foi" -"ma foi" | shared via feedly
FOI Notes: EU Case Summary, US FOI Day. 14 January 2011. European Union: New Statewatch Analysis: Case Law Summary: EU access to documents Regulation (142 ...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mediation smoothes FOI


Mediation smoothes FOI
Published on Google Alerts - "foi" -"ma foi" | shared via feedly
From the inception of the law it has been the information commissioner's policy to seek a resolution to any FOI dispute, be it by Micky Mouse or a named ...
See all stories on this topic »

Most government info requests denied

New UK law means queen's secrets to stay that way -
LONDON — What happens in the palace stays in the palace. A new British law that took effect Wednesday makes Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince William exempt from freedom of information laws, meaning many private details of their lives won't ...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WCB gets top marks for information - Brandon Sun
On Monday, Manitoba's Ombudsman gave the WCB top marks -- a 100 per cent score -- for the way it handles freedom of information (FIPPA) requests.

Supreme Court to Hear Corporate Privacy Case Today

The Supreme Court will hear arguments today (January 19, 2011) on whether or not corporations have privacy pursuant to FOIA Exemption 6 today.  For those of you unfamiliar with the case, the Sunlight Foundation has this excellent synopsis of the case.

Comments on Draft Spanish Right to Information Law - Centre for Law and Democracy

17 January 2011: For immediate release

Scope of Spanish Right to Information Law Too Limited

The Spanish government has been preparing a Draft Law on Transparency and Citizen Access to Public Information, so far in secret. A draft of the law was leaked to the press in August 2010 and CLD has prepared a detailed set of Comments on the draft. The government has still not released an official version, apparently waiting until it has a very developed version before soliciting public comment.

"The draft Law has some positive features, but these are seriously undercut by major limitations on the scope of both information and public authorities it covers," said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. "Furthermore, given the important social implications of this exercise, the government should have prepared a policy paper and held wide-ranging public consultations before proceeding to draft the actual legislation."

Some of the key problems with the draft Law highlighted in the Comments include:

·    Information which is not destined to become 'part of the file', such as notes, drafts, opinions, reports and internal communications are not covered.

·    'State secrets', which term is not defined in the draft Law, will be accessible only through other (as yet unspecified) rules granting access to information.

·    The draft Law has only limited application to legislative and judicial bodies.

·    The regime of exceptions is significantly overbroad, both in terms of the scope of the exceptions – which include vague and expansive items such as 'external relations', 'secrecy as required by the decision-making process' and the 'legitimate interests of private individuals' – and the weak nature of the test for engaging them, which is 'might result in harm'.

Spain remains the only major country in the European Union, and one of very few members of the Council of Europe, that does not have a right to information law. It is thus welcome that progress is being made to adopt one. We call on the government to approach this task in a consultative manner, and to ensure that the law that is adopted complies with international standards in this area, in accordance with our Comments.

The full set of Comments is available at:


For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel

Executive Director

Centre for Law and Democracy


tel: +1 902 431-3688

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Tel:  +1 902 431-3688
Fax: +1 902 431-3689

Campaign against narrowing of EU Access to Documents Rules

Campaign against narrowing of EU Access to Documents RulesAccess Info Logo

Call for signatures for open letter to Members of European Parliament

Madrid, 18 January 2011 - Access Info Europe this week called for signatures for an open letter to Members of the European Parliament as part of its campaign to stop narrowing of the EU's rules on access to documents, Regulation 1049/2001.

Concerns about the reforms initially proposed by the EU Commission in 2008 include:
• Narrower definition of "document"
• Exclusion of databases
• Veto Rights for EU Member States
• Blanket Exception for Legal Advice
• Extended time for EU bodies to process appeals
• Personal data protection not subject to public interest test

The letter, developed as part of a joint campaign with CSOs Client Earth and Greenpeace, has already been signed by over 40 civil society groups from around the world. If you would like to sign the letter as an individual or an organisation, please write to Access Info by clicking here.

"EU transparency is important to civil society and individuals around the world," commented campaign coordinator Pamela Bartlett. "This letter to MEPs is open to signature by NGOs from any country."

MEPs are expected to discuss the reform of the EU's Regulation on Access to Documents in early February.

For more information on Access Info Europe's campaigns promoting a transparent and participatory European Union, click here

To receive updates about developments relating specifically to EU transparency, subscribe here

For more information contact Pamela Bartlett,, office phone +34 91 366 5344



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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Research & Statistical Officer III (Legislative Coordinator) (Halifax) - Halifax, NS - Indeed Mobile
Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Monday, January 17, 2011

United Kingdom: ICO Publishes Freedom Of Information Tips - Mondaq
The Information Commissioner's Office ("ICO") has published a series of tips on freedom of information, aimed at communications professionals working for public authorities ...

How are the BBC handling their FOI data...? - The Help Me Investigate blog

Vanguard Mobile - Editors make case for passage of FOI bill

Close Protection Forum and Surveillance Forum Mobile

'CLG declined FOI requests on impact of Affordable Rent' » Housing »

Response to freedom of information requests reviewed - Winnipeg Free Press
How well do public bodies respond to freedom of information (FIPPA) requests? The office of the Manitoba Ombudsman looked at five organizations last year as part of an ongoing ...

Tell them what? - Lloyd's List
It is not clear whether freedom of information laws can make distinctions between a port's role as commercial operator and harbour authority

NBN claims FOI exemption: report | News | Business Spectator

House panel wants Freedom of Information papers - Denver Post
WASHINGTON — A House committee has asked the Homeland Security Department to provide documents about an agency policy that required political appointees to review ...

Opposition invokes law to dig out key financial facts - Harrow Observer

Canada must do better on access - Hill Times
C anada ranked last in an international study comparing our freedom of information laws and their effectiveness to Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom, released ...

Friday, January 14, 2011

BC Ferries dumps bad news on reporters late in the day - The Vancouver Sun
BC Ferries has gotten into the habit of releasing potentially embarrassing Freedom of Information records late in the day, making it harder for reporters to analyze ...

Who makes FOI requests? - BBC

Who makes FOI requests? - BBC: "One of Tony Blair's regrets about introducing the Freedom of Information Act was that it has mostly been used by journalists rather than by 'the people', or so he claims. Now ..."

National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame

National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame: "from the First Amendment Center: The right to know about the actions of government is now an important part of America’s democratic heritage.The legal basis of this right was established on July 4, 1966, when President Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act. In 1974, FOIA was strengthened with the passage of key amendments. A new measure, which would apply FOIA principles to electronic"

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Icelandic politician out to push boundaries - Toronto Star
"I'm a threat to the established power," she says over a coffee in Toronto, a day after a lecture on Iceland's new freedom of information law.

Icelandic MP Says It’s Our Duty to Fight For ... -
The group looked at laws protecting freedom of speech and freedom of information in dozens of major countries and cherry-picked what they thought were the best ones.

The Worst Proposed FOI Exemption of 2011…Thus Far
Image via Wikipedia

In Virginia, a state representative carrying the water for state employees has come up with this gem:

A bill introduced by Sen. Stephen H. Martin, R-Chesterfield, would prevent the names of public employees and officials from being released with information about their salaries.

As proposed, Senate Bill 812 would amend Virginia Freedom of Information Act laws to exclude names from release with compensation information.

"In my judgment, it's not necessary for the public to know who makes exactly what," Martin said by phone Tuesday.

Martin said the bill was introduced in response to a state salary database that the Richmond Times-Dispatchpublished online in October. The database included the names of employees earning above the average salary of $50,298.



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Filed under: 3. Access law Tagged: Virginia

Cuomo must make open government a N.Y. reality - Democrat and Chronicle
Mandate court award of attorney's fees when government entities deny access or fail to comply in timely manner to a Freedom of Information Law request.

Register now for National FOI Day conference - First Amendment Center
WASHINGTON — The 13th annual National Freedom of Information Day Conference will be held Wednesday, March 16, at the Knight Conference Center at the Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania ...

Tracing Transparency
President Obama's open government initiative unleashed a torrent of agency data, but citizens still don't believe they're getting the whole story.

Stelmach rebuked over Alberta government secrecy

FYI Ottawa: FOI laws need fixing - Abbotsford News
The rusty machination that serves as this country's woeful freedom of information system isn't enough of an issue to get Canadians rushing to the polls. But ...

A Year of Open Government Data: Transparency, but also Innovation


A Year of Open Government Data: Transparency, but also Innovation
Published on Open Data | shared via feedly

Freedom-of-information program needs improvement - Elmira Independent


Freedom-of-information program needs improvement - Elmira Independent
Published on "freedom of information" - Bing News | shared via feedly
It comes as no surprise to us that Canada's freedom-of-information program is not working. That is the conclusion of a recent study by a pair of British academics, who took a ...

Judge says government need not disclose air traveler security images - CNN


Judge says government need not disclose air traveler security images - CNN
Published on "freedom of information" - Bing News | shared via feedly
But Judge Ricardo Urbina, in a 15-page opinion issued Wednesday, said the Homeland Security Department has no obligation under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose ...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oxford student Isabelle Fraser's weekend with Wikileaks - BBC


Sent to you by Greg via Google Reader:


"I think freedom of information is very important but there is a difference between a freedom of information request and publishing classified military documents.


Things you can do from here:


quote of the day

"Bureaucrats write memoranda* both because they appear to be busy when they are writing and because the memos, once written, immediately become proof that they were busy."
  - Charles Peters

*Which are all accessible by FOI right?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Privacy association hopes to see IBM contract today

New privacy commissioner to focus on greater access

Q&A: Birgitta Jonsdottir on Wikileaks and Twitter - Globe and Mail
If we claim we live in a democracy but don't have free press or freedom of information online, then we are obviously not in a very democratic society.

Updated: Government refuses to hand over unedited copy of IBM contract - The Vancouver Sun
"You will note that some information on the enclosed records continues to be withheld pursuant to section 15 o f the [Freedom of Information and Privacy]Act, as the ...

Cops say requests vexatious

Cops say requests vexatious: "During the first half of 2010, 10% or 21 of the FOI requests made were also refused or closed as a result of “no records” being found. ...
See all stories on this topic »"

Lyle's blog: Freedom of Information and Research

Lyle's blog: Freedom of Information and Research: "As Universities in Australia are statutory bodies they come under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI). So your research data and records might be requested! Some aspects of this are explained in the OAK Law report "Building the ...
Lyle's blog -"