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 http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
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July 29, 2016 10:23 AM

A year after updating its open data policy, New York City is pushing ahead with plans to automatically refresh more of its data sets and tie public records requests to the open data process — moves hailed by open government advocates, even as some worry about the data’s quality.

In a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city council earlier this month, a year after his “Open Data for All” initiative launched, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications reported it entered 156 new data sets on the city’s online portal over the last year, and noted that more than 200 of the roughly 1,500 data sets included on the site are now configured to update automatically. Continue...

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July 29, 2016 10:10 AM

This month, the U.S. Freedom of Information Act turned 50. But the passage of time has not slowed the pace of threads toward it and, transitively, toward the American public.

A mere 10 days after the FOIA’s semicentennial, a federal appeals court in a close ruling reversed 20-year-old precedent allowing the release of police booking photos. The Sixth Circuit court held that such photos are “embarrassing and humiliating” and thus meet the standard of privacy-protected information that the FOIA exempts. Continue...

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July 29, 2016 9:46 AM

One of the great promises of open government this decade has been that it can serve as a catalyst for a new civic-centered “innovation ecosystem.” This ecosystem, replete with successful startups and data-driven advancements in government operations, could not only enhance transparency, but spur replication and generate economic value for cities. In 2013, McKinsey and Company concluded that open data, in all its forms, had the potential to contribute $3 trillion a year of value across the global economy. This and other reports set off a wave of excitement, encouraging The Economist to declare that “the open data movement has finally come of age.”

Yet in the nearly three years since, progress at the local level has been incremental. Cities like Chicago have achieved many operational data-driven advancements, yet the process of replication has been slower than many in 2013 may have hoped. Consider that for almost a year now, Chicago’s food inspection program has been guided by predictive analytics. Continue...

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July 29, 2016 9:40 AM

On July 28, 2016, the State Department released the 2016 Fiscal Transparency Report pursuant to section 7031(b) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2016 (Div. K, P.L.114-113) (“the Act”). The report found that 76 of 140 governments reviewed by the Department met minimum requirements of fiscal transparency. Eight governments found not to meet minimum requirements made significant progress toward meeting minimum requirements. The Department continued to update and strengthen the minimum requirements, as required by law.

The Department evaluated the public availability, substantial completeness, and reliability of budget documents, as well as the transparency of processes for awarding government contracts and licenses for natural resource extraction. Continue...

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July 28, 2016 12:23 PM

Now that Senator Tim Kaine has joined the presidential ticket, his long public career is receiving new scrutiny. One aspect of that career is Kaine’s record on open government. 

Hillary Clinton may be in hot water for hiding her emails. But Tim Kaine has the opposite problem. He and his staff turned over so many records at the end of his time as governor that the Library of Virginia is still in the process of archiving them all. Archivist Roger Christman says the Library of Virginia’s online archive of Kaine’s emails is the first of its kind in the nation. Continue...

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July 28, 2016 11:37 AM

Wyoming state government is considering a proposed rule to allow state agencies to charge the public for staff time required to respond to requests to inspect electronic records.

While some media and public interest groups warn that enacting the rules could stifle public scrutiny of government operations, senior state lawmakers say the changes are necessary to keep agencies from getting swamped by information requests. Continue...

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July 28, 2016 11:31 AM

A new state law will make it expensive for local governments that choose not to comply with orders to turn over documents ruled public under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Gov. Bruce Rauner earlier this month signed House Bill 4715 into law, which significantly increases fines that can be levied against local governments if they violate court orders or binding attorney general’s opinions that a FOIA request denied by the body must be made public. The law is one of two signed by Rauner that collectively are called “Molly’s Law,” named in honor of a family that encountered roadblocks trying to investigate their young daughter’s death. Continue...

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July 28, 2016 9:45 AM

Are you better off now than you were three years ago? If you work in the U.S. Congress, probably not. Your workload has skyrocketed, your job has only gotten more complex, and what you’re paid is peanuts, considering you do one of the most difficult and important jobs in the United States of America.

It gets worse. The technology and resources legislative branch staffers have to accomplish their mission continue to be anything but adequate. It isn’t that there is no budget — Congress spent at least $288,000,000 on tech and digital in 2014, according our analysis of Congressional disbursement data. It is where and how those tax dollars are spent — really, the institutional information technology (IT) culture and rules—pointing to far greater hurdles standing between the Congress we have and the one we need. Continue...

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July 27, 2016 1:42 PM

View highlights from the blog and news feed from Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition here.

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July 27, 2016 12:23 PM

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg once called the New York Police Department “the seventh biggest army in the world”. Whether or not that stat is true, there’s no doubt the NYPD is a large and powerful organisation – and, as current mayor Bill de Blasio learned last year, it does not always take criticism well.

Enter Ben Wellington, a Brooklyn-based quantitative analyst who runs the storytelling-through-data website IQuantNY. The map above comes from a recent IQuantNY post examining New York City’s parking ticket data, which is freely available online. The red circles represent millions of dollars in erroneous parking tickets, issued by NYPD officers to vehicles that were in fact parked legally. Continue...

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July 27, 2016 12:18 PM

A yearslong push in San Diego to include city workers’ use of private devices for government business under the state’s public records law just hit another major snag, frustrating open government advocates and city lawmakers.

Council Member David Alvarez was backing an effort to put a measure on the issue on November’s ballot. If voters gave it their approval, it would have stopped city employees from circumventing public disclosure requirements simply by using their personal cell phones or computers instead of their government devices. Continue...

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July 27, 2016 12:01 PM

Today we are releasing a report on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) program at the United States Secret Service (USSS), the fifth in our series of assessments of FOIA programs at components of the Department of Homeland Security. Like other OGIS reports on agency FOIA program assessments, the report includes findings and recommendations about the USSS FOIA Program.

USSS’s FOIA Program is centralized; program offices search for responsive records and the FOIA office processes them and responds to the requester. USSS accepts requests by mail, email, online using the DHS online submission form, or through the DHS FOIA app by mobile phone. Continue...

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