Archives for July, 2013

Privacy vs. the public's right to know

Posted: July 8, 2013 | Tags: FOIA

In an age of shrinking personal privacy, the federal government is relying more than ever on privacy concerns to deny access to government records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Private information found in personnel, medical or similiar files is one of nine exemptions that agencies can cite to deny or redact access to records. Private information found in law enforcement files is another. Yet the government must show that releasing the information would result in an “unwarranted” invasion of privacy. The Workshop’s analysis of annual FOIA reports show that federal agencies invoked one of the two privacy ...

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No, government is not too open

March 13-19 was Sunshine Week — a nationwide celebration of access to public information. Across the country, the week was marked by panel discussions, workshops and other events about using and understanding the latest developments in freedom-of-information resources. One of those was an event at the University of Missouri in which Charles Lewis, the Workshop's executive editor, argued that government has not become too transparent.

iFOIA's new site features tracking

Since 1996 the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has offered a free letter-generating service to provide users with the correct language and structure for FOIA requests. Over the past year the committee looked for ways to expand this tool to better serve reporters. In recognition of the fact that a single investigation can require hundreds of FOIA requests, they sought to make it easier for journalists to track and organize records requests.

“Reporters are always trying to remember where they’ve submitted requests, how much time has passed since they made the request and who they need to follow up with,” said Emily Grannis of the new ifOIA website.

Privacy vs. the public's right to know

Scholars and watchdog groups say the federal government — and the Supreme Court — have slowly expanded privacy rights beyond the guidelines established in FOIA. Supreme Court decisions in five FOIA cases shed light on how the government came to value privacy interests over the public’s right to know.

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