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

June 2, 2015 12:03 PM

Government data is changing what we know about the work doctors do, and is giving developers the ability to transform that data into useful tools.

For the second year running, the government has released information on how doctors and other providers are charging Medicare. The physician utilization data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, covering $90 billion in payments across 950,000 providers, gives developers the raw material to build tools that allow for the comparison of doctors on a number of criteria, such as services delivered, charges submitted, and more.  Continue>>>


December 1, 2014 1:57 PM

Socrata, a startup working to make government data more easily accessible to companies and services, has raised $30 million in new funding.

Socrata has raised at least $30 million out of possible $35 million it’s seeking to close, according to a filing it submitted today to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing lists Jai Das of Sapphire Ventures as a director.

Although Socrata mentions several products on its website, it’s mainly focused on helping bridge government data and companies and developers through application programming interfaces (APIs), applications, and online data portals. The goal is to increase government transparency and citizen engagement through government data. Continue>>>

March 8, 2013 12:35 PM

Access Freedom of InformationA few state FOIA and local open government news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier in the week. While you're at it, be sure to check out State FOIA Friday Archives.


Supreme Court rules against Scioto County records request

The Ohio Supreme Court batted down a public-records request by a Portsmouth businessman seeking deed and other information from Scioto County Engineer Craig Opperman. By a 6-1 decision yesterday, the court ruled that Opperman did not have to give Portsmouth real-estate appraiser Robert Gambill a copy of the county’s electronic database of deed information and aerial photos of all Scioto County property. The court said that by offering Gambill a copy provided that he pay a $2,000 fee, the engineer had met requirements in the Ohio Public Records Act.

Visit The Columbus Dispatch for the rest.

Texas lawmakers entering 'Twitter age' with Open Meetings upgrade

AUSTIN — Attorney General Greg Abbott endorsed a proposal Thursday that would free up the state's elected officials to discuss public business electronically, provided they do so in open, online forums. The measure, filed by state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, is only the latest attempt to update Texas' public information laws for the Information Age.

Visit for the rest.

Residents fight town records fees

MIDDLESEX, N.C. — Two outspoken residents say they’re the reason town officials now charge up to $26 per hour for copies of public records. Brandie Holt and Robert Johnson said their requests for information on park maintenance led Middlesex commissioners to begin charging a service fee for records requests that take more than a half-hour to fulfill. An attorney says the town policy may violate state public records laws.

Visit The Wilson Times for the rest.

N.M. legislature to hold hearing on public records policy

Legislative leaders have spent the session quietly drafting a controversial but innocuous-sounding rule about “legislative information.” Few legislators, outside of leadership, know about this rule, which is the only agenda item for a rarely-convened committee that will meet tomorrow morning. House Minority Leader Don Bratton and Speaker of the House Ken Martinez dropped House Concurrent Resolution 1 on Monday. ... HCR 1 makes the Legislative Council Service “the custodian of the records of the legislature.” LCS will fulfill “requests under the Inspection of Public Records Acts.” The bill also says lawmakers have constitutional “privileges and immunities” and “exercise authority collectively.”

Visit Santa Fe Reporter for the rest.

ACLU of Utah files public records requests for info on police use of military weapons, tactics

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's affiliate of the ACLU joined 22 other chapters around the country in launching an investigation into local police use of military technology and tactics. The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah has filed public records requests with 19 police agencies in the state, including the Utah National Guard. The requests ask for information about how they are using federally subsidized military technology and tactics.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

August 14, 2012 1:49 PM

From Information Week:

Many mandates have been heaped on federal IT executives over the past few years: cloud computing, data center consolidation, open government, shared services, and wider support for mobile devices and applications. Which of these requirements, all coming from the Office of Management and Budget, have risen to the top of agency to-do lists? Well, none of them.

InformationWeek Government's third annual Federal Government IT Priorities Survey shows that federal IT pros are focused, first and foremost, on providing a secure, solid foundation for all of those other IT efforts. Security, continuity planning, and data records management--in that order--top the list of federal IT priorities. Our survey, conducted in July, was completed by 147 federal IT pros.


June 13, 2012 1:47 PM

From Government Executive

The DATA Act, the government spending transparency bill that passed the House in April, has ruffled some feathers at the Office of Management and Budget, signs of which were on display Tuesday at a panel discussion of lessons learned from implementation of the 2009 Recovery Act.


The legislation known as the DATA Act (H.R. 2146), which is pending in the Senate, would impose a universal reporting requirement for recipients of federal grants, loans and contracts. It would require all agencies to use the same formats to publicly share their internal and external obligations and expenditures. In addition, a late amendment would curb agency spending on conferences. A five-member Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Commission would oversee the measure’s implementation.

February 10, 2012 3:47 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:

CIA's Covert Operation Against Declassification Review

This very important Document Friday features a very obscure document, just two pages (59033 and 59034) that the Central Intelligence Agency printed in the Federal Register on Friday, 23 September 2011 –without a notice for public comment.  These regulations, which the CIA began enforcing in December, are a covert attack on the most effective tool that the public uses to declassify the CIA’s secret documents, Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR).

Opinion from National Security Archive blog.

Business and Media Interests in Dispute over 'Secret Court'

The decision by the Delaware Court of Chancery to establish what some see as a "secret court" for business has set up a showdown between the court, the national media and top business interests. This month, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press joined an October federal lawsuit filed by the Delaware Coalition for Open Government against the Court of Chancery and the state of Delaware.

Visit Delaware Online for the rest.

Open Gov Advocates Say Maryland Does a Poor Job Putting Data Online

Maryland lags behind other states in making government information easy for citizens to access online, open government advocates said, despite Gov. Martin O'Malley's push to make Maryland more digitally transparent. O'Malley is well known for using data to measure the effectiveness of government programs and policies.

Visit Southern Maryland Onlinet for the rest.

Michigan State Football Player Files Complaint Against Police Department

Michigan State senior Trenton Robinson has filed a citizens complaint against a local police department, saying that the officer who stopped him used “unnecessary force to command my body in motions that I was uncomfortable with,” according to the complaint obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the Bay City Times in Bay City, Mich.

Visit Sporting News for the rest.

How Open Society Grantees Are Advancing Access to Public Information in Latin America

Since the landmark legal decision Marcel Claude Reyes and Others v. Chile of the Inter-American Human Rights Court in 2006, the right to access public information has increasingly been recognized by Latin America’s governments as a human right.  Fourteen of the region’s nineteen countries have access to public information laws, more than any other developing region in the world.  Most of these have been passed in the past decade with the support of the Open Society Foundations' Latin America Program and partner civil society organizations.

Visit Open Society Foundations for the rest.

New York City Transparency Project Will Open-Source a Look Inside the City's Checkbook

The office of the New York City Comptroller has begun coding up a revamp to a site that already gives a comprehensive look, updated daily, at nearly every check issued by the city. For the first time, the city will also offer software developers direct, programmatic access to a comprehensive trove of information about New York's fiscal health. And within a few weeks after the updated site launches, city officials say, the source code will be released online under an open-source license.

Visit Tech President for the rest.

'Transparency Camp 2012' is Open for Registration

Transparency Camp is an “unconference” for opengov: an event where, each year, journalists, developers, technologists, policy-makers, government officials, students, academics, wonks, and everyone in between gather to share their knowledge about how to use new technologies and policies to make our government really work for the people -- and to help our people work smarter with our government.

Visit Transparency Camp for the rest.

Turning Government Data into Private Sector Products is Complicated Business

The government launched its massive data set trove in 2009 with a clear mission: to put information the government was gathering anyway into the hands of private sector and nonprofit Web and mobile app developers. Once that data was out, the White House imagined, developers would set about turning it into useful products--optimizing Census Bureau statistics for marketers; Commerce Department data for exporters; and Housing and Urban Development Department information for building contractors, mortgage brokers and insurance adjusters.

Visit NextGov for the rest.

Citizens Love Transparency

Citizens are demanding more accountability and openness, and new technologies are making it easier to share data and information more freely. There are also sound reasons for doing this as experience indicates that having a more informed citizenry improves services, and open data has the potential to generate a host of new services and businesses.

Read the opinion for the rest.

February 7, 2012 2:04 PM

From PBS:

Storing paper records in the attic of a police station might sound like a practice from the distant past, but that's what I learned happens in at least one rural North Carolina county. In fact, good old-fashioned paper copies of public records are still common in rural parts of North Carolina.

Part of our job here at the OpenRural project at UNC is to somehow get that paper out of the attic and onto the web, and do it in a way that's financially sustainable for the staff of small papers.


The driving force behind the creation of digital records isn't an interest in making public information widely available, but the ease of filing monthly data to the State Bureau of Investigation and sharing information with other agencies.

January 27, 2012 4:30 PM

From The Council on Foreign Relations:

Open data is the new thing in development. In the last three years, the World Bank, the United States, the United Kingdom, Kenya, and now the new Open Government Partnership have made raw data available to the public in forms that can be manipulated and interpreted by techno-savvy people to improve governance. The implications of this are huge, although we are just at the beginning of realizing the potential benefits.

Over the long term, providing greater access to raw information – including census tallies, government expenditures, poverty statistics, draft budgets, agricultural data, and government procurement – could make the delivery of public goods far more efficient and effective, lower levels of corruption, and engage citizens in the running of their societies in profoundly new ways.

January 19, 2012 9:36 AM

From Wicked Local Swansea:

Attorney General Martha Coakley has posted all Open Meeting Law rulings by the Division of Open Government on an interactive online database.

The new Open Meeting Law Determination Lookup is part of an effort by the attorney general to increase access to information about the Open Meeting Law for members of public bodies, government employees and the public.

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