FOI Advocate Blog

The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit

August 28, 2012 8:36 AM


On Friday, August 24, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) belatedly issued the Managing Government Records Directive. The Directive lays out the framework for how the federal government plans to make sure it is effectively and efficiently managing electronic records. There is much for the open government community to like in the Directive: a requirement that agencies designate a senior official to oversee records management and an emphasis on managing records in the cloud, for example.
And there is one big thing for open government advocates to not like: deadlines that mean it will be many more years before we can say with any certainty that federal government agencies are not improperly destroying or otherwise losing records.

July 18, 2012 9:29 AM

From The Verge:

In the US and elsewhere, documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act(FOIA) and its equivalents can be instrumental in preserving government accountability. Just recently, after some significant effort, EFF obtained information on the FAA's authorizations for the use of domestic aerial drones by public and private entities, shedding light on one of the country's more contentious privacy issues. But in addition to the lengthy waiting periods and nebulous criteria for rejection often associated with such queries, the process of sifting through documents obtained in this way remains incredibly onerous for the average citizen.

Amsterdam-based design and research firm Metahaven is developing a solution to the second half of that problem: a social media service where users can easily access, share, comment and collaborate on publicly disclosed documents in order to keep governments transparent and accountable.

June 25, 2012 10:09 AM


MARDELA SPRINGS -- Citing a need for more open government as well as to move toward the digital age, the town is looking at the possibility of creating a municipal website.The website would dispense local information to more than 300 residents who live in the municipality. The hope is to have the page active by the fall.

Once completed, Mardela Springs' site will be the fifth of the incorporated towns in Wicomico to have their own web destination. Others include Delmar, Salisbury, Fruitland and Sharptown.

June 12, 2012 10:36 AM

A recent post and a not-so-recent paper that, among other things, sets out to distinguish between "open data" and "open government" in terms of actual meaning, usage, and potentialities.

From Nextgov:

The increased focus on open data, especially since the start of the Obama administration, has caused an identity crisis for some transparency purists who point out that governments can have strong open data records while being otherwise opaque or even repressive.

Saudi Arabia, for example, launched an open data portal in 2011. The site is full of spreadsheets detailing the oil-rich desert kingdom’s retail trade and agricultural grants. There’s nothing there, though, about the government’s murky internal operations, women’s access to education or the working conditions of foreign laborers.

And, from the Social Science Research Network:

“[O]pen government data” might refer to data that makes the government as a whole more open (that is, more accountable to the public), but might equally well refer to politically neutral public sector disclosures that are easy to reuse, but that may have nothing to do with public accountability. Today a regime can call itself “open” if it builds the right kind of web site — even if it does not become more accountable. This shift in vocabulary makes it harder for policymakers and activists to articulate clear priorities and make cogent demands..

This essay proposes a more useful way for participants on all sides to frame the debate: We separate the politics of open government from the technologies of open data. Technology can make public information more adaptable, empowering third parties to contribute in exciting new ways across many aspects of civic life. But technological enhancements will not resolve debates about the best priorities for civic life, and enhancements to government services are no substitute for public accountability.

April 12, 2012 2:12 PM

From Iron Mountain:

It seems as if every facet of government is reaching out and touching the public via social networks, blogs, email and other so-called Web 2.0 applications. And the public is touching back, making suggestions and submitting information.

March 16, 2012 10:37 AM

We've compiled a list of and links to articles and editorials about and in recognition of Sunshine Week 2012 and the events and observances that are being held in the states.

Read all about it here.

February 24, 2012 5:17 PM

A few open government and FOIA news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier:

Open Data Handbook 1.0 introduces open data

To help guide organisations that wish to open their data, the Open Knowledge Foundation has released version 1.0 of the "Open Data Handbook" which "discusses the legal, social and technical aspects of open data". The handbook is targeted at a broad audience, according to the announcement, but has a particular focus on open government data. It began development in October 2010 as the "Open Data Manual" at a book sprint in Berlin, organised by members of the Open Government Data and Open Data in the EU working groups at the Open Knowledge Foundation. It was then added to and refined by a wider group of editors to produce the current handbook.

Visit The H Open Source for the rest.

NASA to open source web operations

NASA, like any other major enterprise, is a heavy user of open source and Linux. Now the agency is planning to open source its main portal and internal Intranet The space agency recently (Feb 6) posted a draft Statement of Work (SOW) seeking vendors to submit their response to the request for information.

Visit for the rest.

Homeland analysts told to monitor policy debates in social media

WASHINGTON — Analysts for a Department of Homeland Security program that monitors social networks like Twitter and Facebook have been instructed to produce reports on policy debates related to the department, a newly disclosed manual shows.

Visit New York Times for the rest.

NYC makes internal ratings of 18,000 public school teachers available

For the first time ever, New York City has made public its internal ratings of how effective teachers are at boosting their students’ performance on reading and math exams. The release of the data on roughly 18,000 teachers — who are identified by name — came in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by The Post and other media outlets in August 2010.

Visit New York Post for the rest.

Official accused of using work email for fantasy football

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- A former Hillsborough deputy county attorney has decided to fight allegations that he was using his work email inappropriately to talk about fantasy football. After a conservative activist filed for the emails under the Freedom of Information Act, the question of gambling arose, and now, the attorney general's office is involved.

Visit WMUR 9 for the rest.

Open-government champion retiring from New Mexico Senate

State Sen. Dede Feldman, a longtime champion of government transparency, announced today that she won’t seek a fifth term this year.

Visit for the rest.

Bill adding teeth to Iowa’s open-records law has new life

DES MOINES – A six-year battle in the Legislature to create an Iowa Public Information Board has renewed life, thanks to a new floor manager for the bill with a “strong desire” to move it forward. “I think the time’s come for this bill to move forward. Six years is long enough,” state Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, said Wednesday. “Iowans that I’ve talked to, talk about transparency in their government; I think the common, everyday Iowan needs one place to go to find out some of their answers.”

Visit for the rest.

January 26, 2012 9:09 AM

From Tech President:

San Francisco’s a town with a lot of mobile apps that can help its residents to navigate everyday life in the city. Routesy provides real-time transit information; Mom Maps helps both residents and tourist parents alike quickly locate kid-friendly places to hang out; Zonability helps make local zoning rules more accessible.


Earlier this month, Mayor Ed Lee announced that the city is partnering with digital age civic group Code for America to create an “accelerator,” where young programmers will be given the opportunity to peer at the innards of city government, and to imagine commercially viable solutions that could help San Francisco, as well as other city governments, to be more efficient. Google is seeding the project with $1.5 million, and the Kauffman Foundation is also providing an unspecified amount.

January 10, 2012 11:25 AM


TALLAHASSEE — A Naples-based think tank unveiled today an open government website, a database of public spending that is perhaps the most comprehensive in the Sunshine State.

From the website,, users can sift through billions of dollars in government spending at state and local levels, from school districts to state agencies. Payroll data, with salaries and benefits, can be searched by name, as can state payments to public and private vendors.

Syndicate content