FOI Advocate News Blog

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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 12, 2015 2:58 PM

Today, the State Department released the FY 2015 Fiscal Transparency Report pursuant to section 7031(b)(3) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2015 (Div. J, P.L.113-235). 

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.  The report can be found on the Department’s website  Continue>>>


June 12, 2015 12:50 PM

A sweeping decision by a majority of justices on the Washington state Supreme Court on Thursday will allow for the automatic sealing of tens of thousands of state juvenile-court records without public challenge or judicial review.

Justice Mary Yu, the opinion’s author, was joined by six other justices in upholding a decision out of King County Juvenile Court sealing the criminal record of a youth identified as “S.J.C.” Yu rejected arguments by open-records and media attorneys that access to the records was guaranteed by the state constitution.  Continue>>>


June 12, 2015 11:56 AM

We started the week out talking about hackathons in Detroit, and we’ll finish the week the same way, although #hack4detroit has a twist: Participants are using the city of Detroit’s open data portal to create apps that will benefit city residents or help streamline operations.

Automation Alley’s #hack4detroit event starts at 7 p.m. tonight at Grand Circus downtown. At stake is a $5,000 grand prize; the apps will be judged by Beth Niblock, chief information officer for the city of Detroit; Sean Hurwitz, CEO of Pixo; Brian Balasia, CEO of Digerati; and Will McDowell, business analyst at Detroit Labs.  Continue>>>


June 12, 2015 9:45 AM

A new era of transparency in West Virginia begins today, as revisions to the state’s Freedom of Information Act officially become enacted.

“All West Virginians benefit from these changes to the state’s Freedom of Information Act,” said Don Smith, executive director of the West Virginia Press Association

The new law, which Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed in April, makes significant changes to the state’s Freedom of Information Act.  Continue>>>


June 12, 2015 8:45 AM

SANTA MONICA—On June 9, the City of Santa Monica won a Technology Solutions award from the Public Technology Institute for its Open Data Initiative.

The annual PTI Technology Solutions Awards recognize excellence in local governments’ use of technology to, in their own words, “solve specific problems, improve community services and internal operations, and reduce costs.” This year, Santa Monica’s Open Data Initiative, with its mission statement of “Transparency, Collaboration and Third Party Applications Through Open Data,” was honored in the category of Data & Performance Metrics.  Continue>>>


June 12, 2015 8:40 AM

Last October, Twitter sued the Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney General, the FBI, and FBI Director James Comey, because the social media platform believed it has a First Amendment right to be fully transparent with its users about the number and nature of national security requests it receives from the government. But with the recent passing of the USA FREEDOM Act, the judge in the case says there may be no need for the lawsuit to move forward.

Twitter’s complaint involves a Jan. 2014 letter from then-Attorney General Eric Holder to a number of tech and online companies (but not Twitter) detailing when and in which formats they could publicly reveal data about national security requests for user account information.  Continue>>>


June 11, 2015 2:51 PM

We’ve been framing the debate between openness and privacy the wrong way.

Rather than positioning privacy and openness as opposing forces, the fact is they’re different sides of the same coin – and equally important. This might seem simple, but it might also be the key to moving things forward around this crucial debate.

Open data advocates often suggest that openness should be the default for all human knowledge. We should share, re-use and compare data freely and in doing so reap the benefits of innovation, cost savings and increased citizen participation — to name a just a few gains.  Continue>>>


June 11, 2015 2:45 PM

Everybody says they're for transparency in government these days.

And most seem to believe the Commonwealth Court's 4-3 decision Wednesday limiting the governor's ability to change executive director's in the state Office of Open Records in mid-term as a good step for that cause.

The court's majority reversed Gov. Tom Wolf's January dismissal of the newly-installed director, Erik Arneson, as a violation of legislative intent to protect the office from at-will hirings or firings.  Continue>>>


June 11, 2015 2:37 PM

Today South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will sign S.47, a body camera bill. The bill requires state and local law enforcement agencies in South Carolina to use body cameras and to develop body camera policies and procedures. It also establishes a “Body-Worn Cameras Fund” and prohibits police body camera footage from being accessed via Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests. The increased use of police body cameras is worthwhile, but limiting access to the footage hinders attempts to increase law enforcement accountability.  

Lawmakers fast-tracked S.47 following the death of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old man who in April this year was shot in the back while fleeing Michael Slager, a North Charleston, South Carolina police officer.  Continue>>>


June 11, 2015 2:33 PM

A legislative session that was most notable for how little it accomplished followed suit on issues regarding open, transparent government.

In what should be considered a victory, a new South Carolina law will do what many thought was already called for and had thus been doing for years. It requires public bodies to have agendas. Further, the agenda may be changed only with proof of emergency circumstances and two thirds of the body agreeing to the changes.

Many public bodies were surprised when the S.C. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that those bodies didn’t need to announce agendas in advance of public meetings. It was an unfortunate recognition of a shortcoming in the state’s Freedom of Information Act.  Continue>>>


June 10, 2015 10:19 AM

As part of its ongoing efforts to ensure greater health care transparency that can improve health outcomes, increase the value of health care spending and strengthen physician-patient relationships, the American Medical Association (AMA) at its annual meeting today passed two new policies that address the growing interest in health care data and price transparency.

Over the past few years, large amounts of health care information have increasingly become publicly accessible through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and other sources, such as all-payer claims databases, registries and qualified entities (QEs). While more health information is available to the public, much of the released data is not timely or actionable and lacks context.   Continue>>>


June 10, 2015 10:02 AM

Grand corruption steals billions that could provide for education, health and other basic human needs; it leads to the deprivation of rights to free speech, access to information and assembly; and, in worst cases, it fuels political instability and armed conflict. What have we learned about these linkages and how is the US and the international community addressing this challenge? What more can be done to combat a history -- and a growing sense-- of impunity and lack of accountability?  Continue>>>


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