Freedom FROM Information Access Acts

September 18, 2017

The AP has reported on yet more efforts to restrict the scope of state open record/FOIA laws and limiting the public’s access to them. [1]

As you can see from the text and from many of my previous blogs on this (just search “FOIA”), the pressures come from several directions, as they have in the past, including:

  • From police, prosecutors and their supporters, usually aimed at limiting or barring access to body-cam recordings of police-involved activities, or of access to related information, such as emergency/911 call recordings and records.
  • From regulated businesses, seeking to keep their information, always called “sensitive”, “confidential”, or “proprietary” (without any supporting evidence), from competitors and from the public (AKA their own customers). I guess that they finally figured out that sound CI research procedures call for checking these records. Ah, the price of success!
  • From governmental units themselves, seeking to remove from the public view more and more of their records, reports, and even proceedings. This is done by changing rules, just flatly declining to provide requested records, and by hindering access through fees and lawsuits. Oddly, the same entities often pat themselves on the back for their transparency. Go figure.

So, keep on using state and federal laws to access records in your CI efforts, but do not expect the same success as you have had in the past. Also, from now on, when reading about open records, and the like, keep in mind the new terms you should use:

  • For “transparent”, now think “opaque”.
  • For “open records”, use “inaccessible records”.
  • For “freedom of information acts”, say “freedom from information access acts”

Happy (more and more limited) hunting.

[1] GOVERNMENTS TURN TABLES BY SUING PUBLIC RECORDS REQUESTERS, Sept, 17, 2017; Request denied: States try to block access to public records, Sept. 17, 2017.

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