Monday, February 28, 2011

Palace to craft own FOI bill - BusinessWorld Online
THE PALACE will draft its own version of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill based on a continuing interagency review of pending measures in Congress as well as counterpart ...

Nigeria passes Freedom of Information Bill -
The House of Representatives in Nigeria made history in Abuj last week as it passed a controversial Freedom of Information (FoI) Bill, writes Onwuka Nzeshi for This Day. Sixty ...

Access 'eroding' under growing list of exemptions, access czar ... - Hill Times
Australia and the United Kingdom have similar freedom of information laws with exemptions for documents that are covered by confidentiality provisions of other laws.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Freedom of info far from free - Winnipeg Free Press
Gábor Lukács, who is in the midst of a lawsuit against the university, made the request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Freedom of Information promise from Enda Kenny -
Promise made to Richard Crowley. Says people have to know what government has been doing. This was in reply to Crowley asking about the restricted inquiry into the banking ...

Arkansas’ FOIA called one of best - Sentinel-Record
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: Assistant Arkansas Attorney General Ryan Owsley discusses the state's Freedom of Information Act at a meeting Thursday in the Garland ...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Good, But Not Sufficient.


Good, But Not Sufficient.
Published on Sunlight Foundation | shared via feedly

Citizen's United opened the door for corporate spending and when Target decided to flex their new political muscle, it blew up in their face due to a disclosure law Minnesota passed in response to the Supreme Court ruling. Target, Best Buy and a growing number of corporations are now looking at voluntarily enacting policies to disclose their political spending in hopes of avoiding fallout that threatens their bottom line. Target has set up a policy page about their 'Civic Activity' that is the product of months of criticism and boycotts following the exposure of contributions through state filings.

It's nice to see corporations moving in the direction towards disclosure, but self-imposed regulations are a far cry from sweeping disclosure laws needed to provide accountability on how the money flows in our political system. The lesson that companies should learn from this episode is that people care about how money is spent in elections.

If pressure from citizens can change corporate policies than we hope that same pressure can inspire Congress to improve disclosure laws.

Officials investigate leak of FOI request to IT supplier


Officials investigate leak of FOI request to IT supplier
Published on Google Alerts - "foi" -"ma foi" | shared via feedly
The Department of Health is investigating how details of an FOI request it received into a possible conflict of interest involving IT suppliers came to be passed to one of the companies named in the inquiry. The DOH is also looking at how the named ...
See all stories on this topic »

Pickles: councils should allow meetings to be recorded


Pickles: councils should allow meetings to be recorded
Published on UK Freedom of Information Blog | shared via feedly
Communities and Local Government News
23 February 2011
Councils should open up their public meetings to local news 'bloggers' and routinely allow online filming of public discussions as part of increasing their transparency, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said today.
To ensure all parts of the modern-day media are able to scrutinise Local Government, Mr Pickles believes councils should also open up public meetings to the 'citizen journalist' as well as the mainstream media, especially as important budget decisions are being made.
Local Government Minister Bob Neill has written to all councils urging greater openness and calling on them to adopt a modern day approach so that credible community or 'hyper-local' bloggers and online broadcasters get the same routine access to council meetings as the traditional accredited media have.
The letter sent today reminds councils that local authority meetings are already open to the general public, which raises concerns about why in some cases bloggers and press have been barred.
For example Tameside Council has accredited professional journalists to report from meetings using Twitter. The decision means local bloggers, the public and even councillors are not permitted to tweet because they are not considered members of the press.
Eric Pickles said:
"Fifty years ago, Margaret Thatcher changed the law to make councils open their meetings to the press and public. This principle of openness needs to be updated for the 21st Century. More and more local news comes from bloggers or citizen journalists telling us what is happening at their local council.

"Many councils are internet-savvy and stream meetings online, but some don't seem to have caught up with the times and are refusing to let bloggers or hyper-local news sites in. With local authorities in the process of setting next year's budget this is more important than ever.

"Opening the door to new media costs nothing and will help improve public scrutiny. The greater powers and freedoms that we are giving local councils must be accompanied by stronger local accountability.

"We are in the digital age and this analogue interpretation of the press access rules is holding back a new wave of local scrutiny, accountability and armchair auditors."

The letter also reassured councils that giving greater access will not contradict data protection law requirements following concerns over personal information. In the majority of cases the citizen blogging about how they see the democratic process working is unlikely to breach the data protection principles.

Chris Taggart, of (external link), which has long championed the need to open council business up to public scrutiny, added:

"In a world where hi-definition video cameras are under £100 and hyperlocal bloggers are doing some of the best council reporting in the country, it is crazy that councils are prohibiting members of the public from videoing, tweeting and live-blogging their meetings.

"Councils need to genuinely engage their communities and giving wider access to their meetings through these technologies is one way they can do this."

Full press release here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Institute creates online guide to FOIA - The Southern
CARBONDALE -- A guide to Illinois' Freedom of Information Act is now available online from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale ...

Freedom of information on the agenda at public meeting -
THE Island's Positive Action Group will be discussing freedom of information at a public meeting on Wednesday. Julian Todd, the creator and co-founder of the website ... iPhone : Looking for the gravy

Friday, February 18, 2011

Texas Lawmakers Urged to Sign Open Government Pledge

In an effort to inform Texans where their elected state officials stand on open government and public access issues, the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas issued a direct appeal to the lawmakers to sign an Open Government Pledge.  About 20-percent of the Texas legislature did so.  For those who did not – we remain hopeful they will reconsider.

Charging for access to cabinet decrees "a choice": official

Open government: mobile mashup tech helps citizens reach officials
Mobile technology and applications that "mash up" public data will help to close the communication gap between government and the general public,...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Expanding Privacy Rationales under the Federal Freedom of Information Act: Stigmatization as Tailsman CN Davis

Expanding Privacy Rationales under the Federal Freedom of Information Act: Stigmatization as Tailsman

CN Davis
Access to government information in a post-September 11 often involves the resolution of conflicts
between privacy rights and the public interest inherent in information flow. On the one hand,
information about any individual investigated by the government, or merely landing in an ...

Tell the government what you want from the Public Data Corporation


Tell the government what you want from the Public Data Corporation
Published on Online Journalism Blog | shared via feedly

Public Data Corporation consultation

If who are excited about the prospect of open data, but frustrated by its execution (or just one of those people who complain that data doesn't change anything), the government are inviting comments on what shape the Public Data Corporation should take.

It's a refreshingly simple execution: a WordPress blog with each question as a separate blog post – presumably it cost a lot less than £300,000. But of course the questions are theirs, and they are:

1.      Which public sector datasets do you currently make use of?

2.      How easy is it to find out what datasets are held by public sector organisations?

3.      How do you, or would you, decide whether a dataset has value for you or for your organisation? What affects how valuable they are, for example timeliness, granularity, format?

4.      Which datasets are of most value to you or your organisation? Why?

5.      What methods of access to datasets would most benefit you or your organisation?

6.      What gets in the way of you or your organisation accessing datasets or data products?

7.      What are the most exciting applications of datasets or data products you are aware of – here or internationally? We are, again, particularly interested in the following areas: registration activities, environmental science, critical infrastructure and the built environment.

8.      Are there any datasets or products you'd like to see generated? How would you or your organisation use them, and what social or economic benefits do you think they would deliver?

9.      From your perspective, what would success look like for the Public Data Corporation?

10.  Have we got the name for this organisation right?  Do you have any suggestions on naming that might better convey our aims?

It's a shame that there isn't any space for more open discussion – and that so many of the questions resemble market research. But still, the more journalists who pile in – the more justifiably we can moan later. So go ahead.

Post your responses here.

Data-privacy measure

Data-privacy measure: "

While the FOI Bill upholds the citizens' right to know the official conduct of government officials, the proposed data-privacy bill seeks to protect the ...
See all stories on this topic »

Journal Online

FOI papers 'prove' Keneally tried to stop power inquiry - ABC News ...

FOI papers 'prove' Keneally tried to stop power inquiry - ABC News ...: "New South Wales Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell has released documents which he says prove the State Government tried to stop a power inquiry by closing ..."

Province will think carefully before changing FOI process: minister

Province will think carefully before changing FOI process: minister: "By Andrew MacLeod February 14, 2011 03:50 pm The provincial government is learning from how BC Ferries handles freedom of information requests but hasn't ...
See all stories on this topic »"

Egyptian activist creates image issues for Google - Toronto Sun

Egyptian activist creates image issues for Google - Toronto Sun: "Instead, it has focused on values surrounding freedom of information and the Internet. “We’re incredibly proud to see Googlers take a stand on those issues,” spokeswoman Jill ..."

Time to lift veil on MNAs' expenses?

Time to lift veil on MNAs' expenses?: "In 1992, The Gazette filed an access-to-information request for the breakdowns of the expenses of all 125 MNAs, which was rejected from the get-go by the ...
See all stories on this topic »"

'FOI law needed now more than ever'

'FOI law needed now more than ever': "By Leila B. Salaverria MANILA, Philippines—All the bombshells being dropped at congressional inquiries touching on military anomalies show the pressing need for a Freedom of Information (FOI) act, according to advocates of the proposed law. ...
See all stories on this topic »"

Mallick: Canadian democracy, Soviet-style - Toronto Star


Sent to you by Greg via Google Reader:


Who paid $5 for a massive Freedom of Information request for 16 years' worth of Prof. Errol Mendes's expense claims and performance evaluations at the University of Ottawa?


Things you can do from here:


NS auditor would examine further complaints


Sent to you by Greg via Google Reader:


via Google Alerts - duff conacher by Metro Canada - Vancouver on 2/16/11

Duff Conacher of Ottawa-based Democracy Watch said a general complaint from the public should suffice. "I think the RCMP and auditor general would be negligent to not go further based on general concern expressed by the public," said Conacher. ...
See all stories on this topic »


Things you can do from here:


Meanwhile, in caffeinated-beverage-related political movement news ...


Meanwhile, in caffeinated-beverage-related political movement news ...
Published on Inside Politics | shared via feedly
... the seemingly indefatigable Duff Conacher is calling on Canadians with a craving for "good, democratic government" to take part in a cross-country campaign under the banner of the Coffee Party of Canada

Hit the jump for the full post! 

Where's the accountability? (Duff Conacher)

Where's the accountability?

By Duff Conacher, Ottawa Citizen January 25, 2011

Prime Minister Harper's claim that the Conservatives have delivered what they promised five years ago is as misleading as the promises were.

The Conservatives promised a federal accountability act that would strengthen government rules in 55 ways, but introduced an act in April 2006 with only 29 changes. The Conservatives also rejected 25 changes to strengthen the accountability act proposed by the opposition parties in 2006. The accountability act weakened government accountability by cutting eight key ethics rules, and the Conservatives also broke their promises to fix election dates, hold free votes on most issues, stop appointing election candidates, and stop appointing party supporters to the Senate and other positions.

As a result, as several scandals have revealed in the past few years, secret, unethical donations and lobbying, patronage and cronyism, unfair snap elections, wasteful spending, and excessive government secrecy are all still legal.

Read more:

Coffee Party aims to jolt politicians into accountability

Coffee Party aims to jolt politicians into accountability

By Ethan Baron, The Province February 6, 2011

While America is steeping in Tea Party madness, a Canadian organization is brewing up a steaming pot of democracy.

Democracy Watch has launched a caffeine-fuelled campaign to change the laws that allow politicians and corporations to act against the public interest.

The Coffee Party initiative encourages citizens to gather over coffee and write letters to politicians urging them to close legal loopholes that shield political officials and big business from accountability.

"If you want good democratic government and responsible corporations, you have to spend as much time writing to politicians as you do lining up to buy coffee, and making coffee and drinking coffee," says Duff Conacher, coordinator of Democracy Watch.

Read more:

Monday, February 14, 2011

UConn claims donor lists are trade secrets as it fights to block their release - Minneapolis Star Tribune


UConn claims donor lists are trade secrets as it fights to block their release - Minneapolis Star Tribune
Published on "freedom of information" - Bing News | shared via feedly
HARTFORD, Conn. - The University of Connecticut is fighting in court to prevent the release of lists naming its supporters, arguing they amount to trade secrets that other institutions could use to lure away Huskies fans' dollars and loyalties. Open ...

Secret Society: School boards keep bills under wraps


Secret Society: School boards keep bills under wraps
And I think it was a big mistake," said Mitchell, who noted that an access-to-information request can "take an awful lot of time. ...

Harper keeps Canada in dark at his own peril


Harper keeps Canada in dark at his own peril
Published on Google Alerts - secrecy canada | shared via feedly
There may be a third one: the Harper government's obsession with secrecy and control. On Friday, Finance critic Scott Brison rose in the House and asked ...
See all stories on this topic »

Globe and Mail

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Victoria must not copy B.C. Ferries' FOI scheme

UConn fights to keep donors private - Middletown Press
"Connecticut has one of the best Freedom of Information acts in the country, but there are gray areas and this, as far as UConn is concerned, is a gray area."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

National Sunshine Week kicks off March 13 - Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
NEWS MEDIA UPDATE U.S. · February 11, 2011 · Freedom of information. National Sunshine Week kicks off March 13. About one month from now, journalists, civic groups, nonprofits ...

Professors fight back in information war - Toronto Star
People within the University of Ottawa's administration know the identity of the person who sent in two massive freedom-of-information requests about Mendes and Attaran in ...

PMO says it isn't snooping for info about academic critics - Calgary Herald
OTTAWA — The Conservative Party of Canada and the Prime Minister's Office deny they are behind freedom of information requests for the professional records of two ...

David Higgerson - FOI Friday: CCTV in high schools, parking charges, bad tickets and swine flu February 11, 2011 @ 10:47

'Forge Freedom of Information, ICT into tools against corruption' - Manila Bulleting Online
MANILA, Philippines — Incumbent and former legislators have underscored the importance of the Freedom of Information (FOI) law and information and communications technology ...

Editorial: There's no excuse for secrecy on toxic waste

Friday, February 11, 2011

Campaign welcomes FOI changes in the Protection of Freedom


Campaign welcomes FOI changes in the Protection of Freedom
Published on UK Freedom of Information Blog | shared via feedly
The Campaign for Freedom of Information has welcomed the changes to the Freedom of Information Act set out in the Protection of Freedoms Bill, published today.

Requiring public authorities to publish data sets proactively, under the 'publication schemes' that all authorities are required to have under the Act, was a positive step, the Campaign said. It was also helpful that when applying for datasets applicants would be entitled to specify that they be released in a reusable electronic format. The Campaign said that should prevent authorities deliberately turning a spreadsheet into a pdf, before releasing it, to stop requesters running their own analyses of the spreadsheet itself.

However, the Campaign said the Act's provisions on the form in which information should be released needed further improvements, to allow requesters to specify that they wanted photocopies of original documents. At present, requesters can only express preference between obtaining information in hard copy or electronic form or inspecting records but are not entitled to specify that they want photocopies of actual correspondence or documents.

The new Bill also seeks to prevent authorities invoking copyright to prevent requesters republishing datasets released under the Act, where the authority is the copyright holder. The Campaign said this was a positive step which should be extended beyond datasets. Authorities frequently insist that requesters apply to them for a copyright license to reproduce information about the authorities' own policies and performance. It said this was an unnecessary restriction which obstructs the use of information which has no commercial value to the authorities themselves.

The Campaign also welcomed the decision to bring companies that are jointly owned by several public authorities under the Act.

FOI not a priority? - The Journal Group Online


FOI not a priority? - The Journal Group Online
Published on "freedom of information" - Bing News | shared via feedly
In this regard we yield this space to the Right to Know, Right Now Coalition which appealed to the President to keep his promise to make the Freedom of Information bill a ...

Freedoms bill extends FoI

Freedoms bill extends FoI: "Among the amendments are that public authorities will be required to provide material released from FoI requests "in an electronic form capable of re-use", ...
See all stories on this topic »"

Privacy commissioner criticizes city again

Privacy commissioner criticizes city again: "By Lana Haight, The StarPhoenix February 10, 2011 For the third time in four months, Saskatchewan's information and privacy commissioner has issued a report ...
See all stories on this topic »"

Thursday, February 10, 2011


02/10/11 - CREW's letter to the OCE

$150,000 Authorized for Open Meetings Legal Advice

Despite having nearly 40 attorneys on its payroll, some with extensive professional experience in the nuances of the Texas Open Meetings law, the City of Austin has authorized spending up to $150,000 for three private attorneys – while the Travis County attorney's review of past meeting practices continues.

Open Knowledge Foundation Open Data Advocate

My colleagues over at the Open Knowledge Foundation have been thinking about recruiting an Open Data Advocate, someone who can coordinate a number of the activities they are up to in the open data space. I offered to think about what the role should entail and how that person could be effective. Consequently, in the interests of transparency, fleshing out my thinking and seeing if there might be feed back (feel free to comment openly, or email me personally if you wish to keep it private) I'm laying out my thinking below.


These are exciting times for open government data advocates. Over the past few years a number of countries, cities and international organizations have launched open data portals and implemented open data policies. Many, many more are contemplating joining the fray. What makes this exciting is that some established players (e.g. United States, UK, World Bank) are continue to push forward and will, I suspect, be refining and augmenting their services in the coming months. At the same time there are still a number of laggards (e.g. Canada federally, Southern Europe, Asia) in which mobilizing local communities, engaging with public servants and providing policy support is still the order of the day.

This makes the role of an Open Data Advocate complex. Obviously, helping pull the laggards along is an important task. Alternatively (or in addition) they may need to also be thinking longer term. Where is open data going, what will second and third generation open data portals need to look like (and what policy infrastructure will be needed to support them).

These are two different goals and so either choosing, or balancing, between them will not be easy.

Key Challenges

Some of the key challenges spring quite obviously from that context. But there are also other challenges, I believe to be looming as well. So what do I suspect are the key challenges around open data over the next 1-5 years?

  1. Getting the laggards up and running
  2. Getting governments to use standardized licenses that are truly open (be it the PDDL, CC-0 or one of the other available licenses out there
  3. Cultivating/fostering an eco-system of external data users
  4. Cultivating/fostering an eco-system of internal government user (and vendors) for open data (this is what will really make open data sustainable)
  5. Pushing jurisdictions and vendors towards adopting standard structures for similar types of data (e.g. wouldn't it be nice if restaurant inspection data from different jurisdictions were structured similarly?)
  6. Raising awareness about abuses of, and the politicization of, data. (e.g. this story about crime data out of New York which has not received nearly enough press)

The Tasks/Leverage Points

There are some basic things that the role will require including:

  1. Overseeing the Working Group on Open Government Data
  2. Managing
  3. Helping organize the Open Government Data Camp 2011, 2012 and beyond

But what the role will really have to do is figure out the key leverage points that can begin to shift the key challenges listed above in the right direction. The above mentioned tasks may be helpful in doing that... but they may not be. Success is going to be determined but figuring how to shift systems (government, vendor, non-profit, etc...) to advance the cause of open data. This will be no small task.

My sense is that some of these leverage points might include:

  1. Organizing open data hackathons - ideally ones that begin to involve key vendors (both to encourage API development, but also to get them using open data)
  2. Leveraging assets like Civic Commons to get open data policies up on online so that jurisdictions entertaining the issue can copy them
  3. Building open data communities in key countries around the world - particularly in key countries in such as Brasil and India where a combination of solid democratic institutions and a sizable developer community could help trigger changes that will have ramifications beyond their borders (I suspect there are also some key smaller countries - need to think more on that)
  4. I'm sure this list could be enhanced...


Obviously resolving the above defined challenges in 1-5 years is probably not realistic. Indeed, resolving many of those issues is probably impossible - it will be a case of ensuring each time we peel back one layer of the onion we are well positioned to tackle the next layer.

Given this, some key metrics by which the Open Knowledge Foundation should evaluate the person in this role might be:

At a high level, possible some metrics might include:

  • Number of open data portals world wide? (number using CKAN?)
  • Number of groups, individuals, cities participating in Opendata hackathons
  • Number of applications/uses of open data
  • Awareness of CKAN and its mission in the public, developer space, government officials, media?
  • Number of government vendors offering open data as part of their solution

More additional deliverables, could include:

  • Running two Global OpenData Hackathons a year?
  • Developing an OKFN consulting arm specializing in open data services/implementation
  • Create an open data implementation policy "in a box" support materials for implementing an open data strategy in government
  • Develop a global network of OKFN chapters to push their local and national governments, share best practices
  • Run opendata bootcamps for public servants and/or activists
  • Create a local open data hackathon in a box kit (to enable local events)
  • Create a local "how to be an open data activist" site
  • Conduct some research on the benefits of open data  to advance the policy debate
  • Create a stronger feedback loop on CKAN's benefits and weaknesses
  • Create a vehicle to connect VC's and/or money with open data drive companies and app developers (or at least assess what barriers remain to use open data in business processes).

Okay, I'll stop there, but if you have thoughts please send them or comment below. Hope this stimulates some thinking among fellow open data geeks.

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Palace wants FOI study first | ABS-CBN News | Latest Philippine Headlines, Breaking News, Video, Analysis, Features

Supreme Court to rule on whistleblower rights against corporations - All Headline News
If whistleblowers like Kirk are not allowed to use Freedom of Information Act information to uncover misdeeds by government contractors, "it would discourage citizens from using ...

Opposition Demands Details of US-Canada Border Deal | Epoch Times Mobile

Federal Court Says Metadata is Public…


Federal Court Says Metadata is Public…
Published on The Art of Access | shared via feedly

For the first time, a federal court has ruled that metadata — information related to the history, tracking or management of an electronic document — must be released if requested under the Freedom of Information Act. A federal judge in New York City made the ruling Monday in National Day Laborer Organizing Network v. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

National Day Laborer Organizing Network requested numerous records in electronic form from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. After significant delay, the agency provided the records, but did so by putting the them into a large, unsearchable PDF that lacked distinction within and lacked metadata. The court held that this was unacceptable.

The two major issues in this case were the format the records were provided in and the lack of metadata, such as file dates, names, attachment data and other identifying information. Regarding the first issue, the court agreed with the plaintiff's claim that the format was completely unusable because the more than 3,000 pages were not searchable and not defined — there was no way to discern the beginning and end of individual records. The court repeatedly criticized the government for its refusal to provide the records in a usable form, at one point referring to the government's claims as "lame."


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Filed under: 3. Access law Tagged: Metadata

Morning Smoke: Judge: FOIA Responses Must Be Searchable, Include Metadata


Morning Smoke: Judge: FOIA Responses Must Be Searchable, Include Metadata

SmokeWhere there's smoke, there's fire. POGO's Morning Smoke is a collection of the previous day's investigations, scoops, and opinions related to the world of government oversight. Have a story you'd like to see included? Contact POGO's blog editor.

Documents in FOIA Requests Must Be 'Searchable,' Federal Judge Rules
Daniel Wise, New York Law Journal (h/t The FOIA blog)

At CIA, grave mistakes, then promotions
Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press

Pentagon Will Back Defense Mergers Outside Top Five Companies, Carter Says
Peter Cook, Tony Capaccio and Gopal Ratnam, Bloomberg

 Pentagon Seeks to Reduce Number of Contractors, Doesn't Know How Many It Has
Stephen Clark,

SBA's contracting practices under close scrutiny (from Discouraged and Disrespected at SBA)
Jason Miller, Federal News Radio

Administering Classification Policy at ODNI
Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News

Pfizer Will Pay $330M To Settle Prempro Cases
Ed Silverman, Pharmalot

Medical Treatment, Out of Reach
Andrew Pollack, The New York Times

Global Impact
Bill Sweetman, Ares

Fraudsters lobby to muzzle whistleblowers
Reuben Guttman, MarketWatch

SEC officials who missed Madoff now in top spots at major law firms
Josh Margolin, New York Post

Recovery Board chairman wants deeper reporting
Robert Brodsky, Government Executive

How you can make a difference today: Tell your Members of Congress about POGO's reform agenda  (just takes 30 seconds)

Government transparency doesn't matter without accountability - Cory Doctorow

Government transparency doesn't matter without accountability

My latest Guardian column is "Government data like crime maps is not enough - there needs to be action," and it looks at two recent data-crunching apps for UK policing: first, the crime-maps that tell you what the crime's like in your neighbourhood, and second, Sukey, an app that helps protesters evade police "kettling" -- an inhumane form of arbitrary detention practiced by police.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Regina February Luncheon: Unlocking government - How data transforms democracy | CIPS Saskatchewan

Training course on FOI decisions 19 May 2011
'Information Commissioner & Tribunal Decisions - what do they mean in practice?'

A half-day course in Central London 19 May 2011

The course deals only with recent decisions and does not repeat material covered in previous courses. It is aimed at experienced FOI practitioners and others with a good working knowledge of the FOI Act. Its exact content is dependent on the decisions that have been issued during the period, but typically covers issues such as: "fair" and "unfair" disclosures of personal data; the FOI/EIR borderline; the commercial interests and confidentiality exemptions; where the public interest line is being drawn; applying the cost limit, vexatious requests and advice and assistance.

The course will be presented by Maurice Frankel, the Campaign's director, who has worked in the field for 27 years.

Significant discounts are available for more than one booking from the same organisation.

Download the booking form

How to find Freedom of Information records deleted by BC Ferries - Canadian Voices

Conservatives keep cost of crime measures a secret

How to make an access to information request - Montreal Gazette


How to make an access to information request - Montreal Gazette

How to make an access to information request
Montreal Gazette
Access to information is governed by Quebec's Act Respecting Access to Documents Held by Public Bodies and the Protection of Personal Information. ...

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

What Do You Want to Get Out of TransparencyCamp?

What Do You Want to Get Out of TransparencyCamp?: "

The open government movement (like most of the online world) is obsessed with “unconferences” -- meet-ups, of sorts, where the participants determine the content of and lead sessions around a pre-determined theme. When done right, it can be a powerful tool for building community.

Sunlight held its first unconference, TransparencyCamp, three years ago in an effort to get the diverse groups of people thinking about and working for government transparency together. From the conversations and problem-solving that took place there, we’ve seen the emergence of some incredible initiatives - take, for example, CityCamp.

This year, we want to go further. We want to focus on government transparency not just on Capitol Hill, but where you live. So, we need your help.

Please take a minute to fill out this survey and let us know what you want to get out of TransparencyCamp.

Never been to a TransparencyCamp or even an unconference before? Not a problem. We’re still interested in knowing what open government issues interest you, what you would want to get out of this sort of experience and how we can improve on the experiences you’ve had at similar events in the past.

TransparencyCamp 2011 will be open to people from across the country. We’re relying on your input to make it the best it can be.

Thanks for your help.


Ribadu Promises To Pass FOI Bill : Omo Naija Magazine

Ribadu Promises To Pass FOI Bill : Omo Naija Magazine: "The Presidential Candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has said he would pass the Freedom of Information bill (FOI) if elected President in April, describing the bill as “a necessary tool needed to ...
Omo Naija Magazine -"

CBC refuses to release costs - Toronto Sun

CBC refuses to release costs - Toronto Sun: "

CBC refuses to release costs
Toronto Sun
An access to information request submitted to the CBC on behalf of QMI Agency asked the broadcaster for the “total and estimated amount spent by CBC on ...

and more »

FOI Commission hands down final dismissals in Bridgewater complaints


Sent to you by Greg via Google Reader:


via Google Alerts - "foi" -"ma foi" by Danbury News Times on 2/7/11

Garlasco launched a campaign against Stuart in 2008 and has brought repeated suits and FOI complaints against him and the town since then. ...
See all stories on this topic »


Things you can do from here:


BC Ferries "transparency" comes with an expiry date


Sent to you by Greg via Google Reader:


via Google Alerts - "foi" -"ma foi" by Vancouver Sun (blog) on 2/7/11

I'd rather have the public at large interpret an FOI request than a reporter who may have a certain angle, positive or negative. ...
See all stories on this topic »


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What are they hiding? - Winnipeg Sun

What are they hiding? - Winnipeg Sun: "The Selinger government invoked Sec. 32(1) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act which states that the head of a public body may refuse to disclose records if ..."

[PDF] Threat To Free Information And Freedom Of Information (U Müller, C Chiriac, D Ciotină, V Coca, C Puiu… - CES Working Papers, 2010)

[PDF] Threat To Free Information And Freedom Of Information

U Müller, C Chiriac, D Ciotină, V Coca, C Puiu… - CES Working Papers, 2010
Abstract: "Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to
the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing." 2 ... At a time when internet access
is widely available, information is spread around the globe rapidly.

Quote of the day

"For every action there is an equal and opposite government program."
  - Bob Wells

Monday, February 07, 2011

Harrow to make all data public in FOI revolution | News | The Lawyer

Nottingham could be only council not to release spending data

According to the Communities and Local Government department, there are eight councils in England which have not yet complied with the ministerial demand that they publish details of all items of spending over £500. However one of these authorities claims that CLG is wrong and it has issued the information.

Nottingham county council


The CLG website contains a list of 346 authorities that have released the data with links to their sites. For some reason the website doesn't actually identify the few which haven't - but the department says they are Nottingham, Bradford, Peterborough, Epsom and Ewell, Hyndburn, Nuneaton and Bedworth, Eastbourne and Lincolnshire.

This is not so much naming and shaming, as shaming by not naming.

The BBC has contacted the eight councils involved. Nuneaton and Bedworth maintains the material has in fact been available on its website for about three weeks.

Bradford, Hyndburn and Peterborough say they will publish it during this week. Eastbourne, Epsom and Ewell, and Lincolnshire say they will do so by the end of February.

If this happens that will leave Nottingham as the only local authority determined to resist the government's request. The council's deputy leader Graham Chapman said:

"We have said that we will publish accounts over £500 if it becomes a legal requirement to do so. We are happy for information to be transparently available for public scrutiny but feel that the time and money needed to implement this change is wasteful and a distraction at a time when we are coping with £60million of cuts in government funding. The government talks about localism but as this issue shows, it seems intent on interfering at every opportunity."

If Nottingham is the only council maintaining this stance, it will be interesting to see how it withstands the pressure and inevitable accusations of secrecy.

The CLG statement was released as part of the next stage in the local transparency drive being pursued by the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles.

He has today launched a consultation document on a new code of practice on local authority data. Councils could now be asked to issue an organisational chart with the names and responsibilities of staff paid over £58,200, which is equivalent to the lowest pay band for senior civil servants.

The draft code also refers to releasing datasets on contracts, councillor expenses, voluntary sector grants and the democratic running of the council.

Some local authorities will be happy to follow this agenda, but there are others who will not be pleased by some of those proposals.

Several councils have already made it clear that they regarded the publication of the spending data over £500 as a bureaucratic exercise with little practical benefit, and they may well be unenthusiastic about these further demands.

This unease featured in an earlier CLG consultation which asked councils for details of what they considered to be unnecessary administrative burdens. Under freedom of information the BBC has obtained from CLG a copy of the summary of responses [68KB PDF].

This report identifies 13 councils with concerns about issuing the spending data. It also names 49 councils who complained about the level or nature of enquiries stemming from the Freedom of Information Act. (The document gives a figure of 52, but this is an error due to double-counting).

However by far the most common protest from authorities was about the data they have to provide to central government, and how they are audited and inspected. There were 152 councils with objections to the monitoring requirements they are subject to.

Some councils however apparently had more unusual complaints about the administrative burdens imposed on them. These included bonfire regulations (raised by East Devon), the out-of-hours stray dog service (Harborough), and the requirement to have four-year election periods (Gravesham).

The FOIA blog: NY Times Editorial on Corporations and Privacy

The FOIA blog: NY Times Editorial on Corporations and Privacy: "The New York Times has this editorial on the issue of Corporate Privacy and the FOIA, an issue which is currently awaiting a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The FOIA blog -"