Posted on March 17, 2013.
Freedom of Information
Sunshine Week: In Celebration of Open Government
“As President Barack Obama has stated, “Openness will strengthen our democracy, and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.” This week, we celebrate Sunshine Week — an appropriate time to discuss the importance of open government and freedom of information, and to take stock of how far we have come, and think about what more can be done.”
Sunshine Week: A Round-up of EFF’s Year in Transparency
“This week, EFF once again joins a coalition of national and local transparency and press organizations in celebrating Sunshine Week as a way to bring attention to the importance of public records and the need to remain vigilant despite government push-back. Forty-seven years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) into law, giving the public the right to access records pertaining to government activities. Pronounced “foy-yah” by those who regularly employ it, the law serves as a sort of citizen subpoena process; if you ask for a record that doesn’t fall under a confidentiality exemption, the government has to produce it. Each day this week, EFF will be sharing details about our efforts to hold the government accountable using this crucial tool, including our successes and challenges. To kick it all off, here’s a breakdown of our greatest transparency hits since the last time Sunshine Week rolled around.”
Open States: Transparency Report Card
“Today we’re making available our Transparency Report Card, a byproduct of the work we did in producing Open States. In the course of writing scrapers for all 50 state legislatures, our Open States team and volunteers spent a lot of time looking at state legislative websites and struggling with the often inadequate information made available. Impossibly difficult to navigate sites, information going missing and gnarly PDFs of tabular data have become daily occurrences for those of us working on Open States. People are always curious to know how their state stacked up compared to others — in fact one of the most frequent questions we have been asked has been “so which state was the worst?” That question got us thinking: How could we derive a measure of how “open” a state’s legislative data was?”
http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2013/03/11/openstates-report-card/ http://openstates.org/reportcard/ http://openstates.org/
Governor Cuomo Launches Open.NY.Gov Providing Public Unprecedented User-Friendly Access to Federal, State and Local Data
“Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today launched “open.ny.gov,” a new and comprehensive state data transparency website that provides – for the first time – user-friendly, one-stop access to data from New York State agencies, localities, and the federal government. The website, featuring economic development, health, recreation, and public services information, was unveiled today during Sunshine Week, a nationwide initiative designed to raise awareness about the importance of open government.”
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): Background and Policy Options for the 113th Congress
“This report provides background on FOIA, discusses the categories of records FOIA exampts from public release, and analyzes statistics on FOIA administration. The report also provides background on severla legal and policy issues related to FOIA, including the release of controversial records, the growth in use of certain FOIA exemptions, and the adoption of new technologies to improve FOIA administration. The report concludes with an examination of potenital FOIA-related policy options for Congress.”
Bipartisan Bill Aims to Beef Up FOIA Compliance
“The Republican and Democrat sitting atop Congress’ top watchdog panel unveiled joint proposed legislation Tuesday that would mandate a single online portal for all Freedom of Information Act requests across government. The 2013 FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act would direct officials to look closely at FOIA Online, a 5-month old joint FOIA Portal for the Commerce Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and a handful of other agencies. It would leave the door open for the governmentwide FOIA system to be built elsewhere, though, according to a press release from sponsors Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.”
Freedom of Information Act Performance, 2012: Agencies Are Processing More Requests but Redacting More Often
“A building block of American democracy is the idea that citizens have a right to information about how their government works and what it does in their name. However, citizen access to public information was only established by law in 1966 with the passage of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The law has since been strengthened and improved over the years, and FOIA currently requires federal agencies to formally respond to requests for information within 20 working days or potentially face a lawsuit. While there are exemptions that agencies can use to avoid the disclosure of sensitive information or information that violates privacy rights, agencies processed over half a million FOIA requests in 2012. In about 41 percent of these cases, the information requested was released “in full” with no parts “redacted” – i.e., clean, complete documents with no blacked-out parts were provided to the person who requested the information. How does this compare to past years and past administrations? How well has President Obama met his goal of being the most transparent administration in history with regard to access to public information? This report examines the processing of FOIA requests from 25 major federal agencies in 2012 and reviews the processing of FOIA requests by agencies since 1998.”
Whither whistleblowing: Where have all the leaking sites gone?
“More than two years ago, a flurry of new WikiLeaks clones sprung up around the world inspired by the world’s most famous transparency-driven organization. They had all kinds of names: QuebecLeaks, BaltiLeaks, EnviroLeaks, and more. PirateLeaks (based in the Czech Republic), BrusselsLeaks (Belgium) and RuLeaks (Russia) all did not respond to Ars’ requests for comments. HonestAppalachia’s Jimmy Tobias wrote to Ars to say the group was “active indeed, and working on a variety of projects.” To date, HonestAppalachia has yet to publish anything, despite receiving a $5,000 grant from the Sunlight Foundation nearly a year ago. Most of these clones never got very far and appear to have all but shut down. Balkanleaks seems to be just one of a handful still actively receiving and publishing new documents. “I think this points to the fact that what WikiLeaks did was fairly unique and probably a few years ahead of its time,” said Trevor Timm, co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. So how does Balkanleaks thrive where others haven’t?”
Aaron Swartz to receive posthumous ‘Freedom of Information’ award for open access advocacy
“Internet activist and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz is slated to receive posthumous recognition in Washington for his efforts promoting free access to taxpayer-funded research. The James Madison Freedom of Information Award is administered by the American Library Association, and recognizes “individuals who have championed, protected and promoted public access to government information and the public’s right to know national information.”"
Senator Tester Champions Government Transparency; Reintroduces POIA
“Today, Senator Jon Tester reintroduced The Public Online Information Act (POIA) a bill that would take already public government information out of file cabinets and put it online in user friendly formats.”
National Security Letters Are Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules
“A federal district court judge in San Francisco has ruled that National Security Letter (NSL) provisions in federal law violate the Constitution. The decision came in a lawsuit challenging a NSL on behalf of an unnamed telecommunications company represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). In the ruling publicly released today, Judge Susan Illston ordered that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stop issuing NSLs and cease enforcing the gag provision in this or any other case. The landmark ruling is stayed for 90 days to allow the government to appeal.”
Shining a Light on FOIA Practices
“In celebration of Sunshine Week, a number of organizations released Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reviews. These reviews, conducted by National Security Archives, the Center for Effective Government, Cause of Action, Associated Press, and OpenTheGovernment.org, indicate how agencies measure up when it comes to providing the public with information. Although the studies indicate that agencies on the whole increased their responses to FOIA requests in 2012, disparities remain between agencies on things like response time, compliance with the 2007 Open Government Act and 2009 Guidance from the White House, cost of responding, fee waivers, and backlog reductions. A majority of responses to FOIA requests in 2012 were only partial responses, and use of exemptions to withhold or redact information increased. The following snapshots contain some of the highlights of each review.”
2013 World Press Freedom Index: Dashed hopes after spring
“After the “Arab springs” and other protest movements that prompted many rises and falls in last year’s index, the 2013 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index marks a return to a more usual configuration. The ranking of most countries is no longer attributable to dramatic political developments. This year’s index is a better reflection of the attitudes and intentions of governments towards media freedom in the medium or long term.”
National Archives to Help Launch the Digital Public Library of America’s Pilot Project
“Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero announced today that the National Archives, as a leading content provider to the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), will help launch its first pilot project. The DPLA is a large-scale, collaborative project across government, research institutions, museums, libraries and archives to build a digital library platform to make America’s cultural and scientific history free and publicly available anytime, anywhere, online through a single access point.”
IMLS Director Susan Hildreth Supports Broad Access to Federally Funded Research
“The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) announced today its continuing commitment to expanding public access to IMLS funded research. In a February 22 memorandum, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy directed agencies to develop plans to increase access to federally funded scientific research and improve the management of research data. The following is a statement from IMLS Director Susan H. Hildreth.”
What Librarians Need to Know about the New Copyright Alert System
“Late last month, the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) launched its Copyright Alert System, creating a new effort by rights holders (including the Recording Industry Association of America and Motion Picture Association of America) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as Comcast, Verizon, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable) to curb online copyright infringement.”
Wimberly, Jasey Introduce “Reader Privacy Act” Bill Upgrading NJ Book Privacy for the Digital Age
“The rise in popularity of digital book purchasing, borrowing and concerns for individual privacy protections has prompted Assembly Democrats Benjie E. Wimberly and Mila M. Jasey to introduce legislation that would place readers and purchasers of books and electronic books –”e-Books”– under similar protections as library records by expanding reader privacy law. Wimberly and Jasey note the invention of digital books and e-readers has raised questions around the country about privacy and broadening protections to include new literary mediums. California enacted similar legislation in 2011 extending library privacy laws to include digital book records.”
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The Intersect Alert is a newsletter of the Government Relations Committee, San Francisco Bay Region Chapter, Special Libraries Association.