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 http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
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November 16, 2012 2:26 PM

A 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:

ACLU lawsuit claims they were denied access to public records

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey claims in a lawsuit that the city of Passaic and its custodian of records have illegally denied it access to public records concerning police devices that read motor vehicle license plates. ...[T]he ACLU and the ACLU of Massachusetts filed federal Freedom of Information Act requests with the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Transportation to learn how the federal government funds and uses the license plate-reading technology.

Visit NorthJersey.com for the rest.

Age of Access: Asheville's budding open-data push

Although local governments have a huge amount of useful information that’s theoretically “public,” actually getting ahold of it can prove challenging, time-consuming and expensive. The idea is to bypass formal data requests (and the resulting demands on staff time to compile them) by enabling anyone with a computer or a smartphone to find out instantly what’s available — and access it, for free, anytime.

Open Data Day coincided with the city’s releasing a provisional version of an online open-data catalog. Meanwhile, Code for America, a national nonprofit that’s been described as a Peace Corps for geeks, has established a volunteer “brigade” in Asheville to help advance the process, with further assistance possible down the road.

Visit Mountain Xpress for the rest.

Chairman of Del. water authority in public records dispute promises "information release" soon

CAMDEN, Del. — The chairman of a Delaware water and sewer authority says he expects an "information release" soon in a public records dispute. Mark Dyer, chairman of the Camden-Wyoming Sewer and Water Authority, said Thursday that information would come probably by the end of the month. He didn't specify what records would be provided. He also didn't say whether the authority would fully comply with a judge's order to follow Delaware's Freedom of Information Act and disclose information about employee salaries.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

Utah Transit Authority ordered to disclose crime data

The State Records Committee voted 3-2 on Thursday to stop what its chairwoman said is an attempt by the Utah Transit Authority to use high fees to block access to public data. It ordered UTA police to give free access to public data in its crime database to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Visit Salt Lake Tribune for the rest.

West Virginia chapter ACLU files a FOIA request with the city of Parkersburg

PARKERSBURG - The West Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the city of Parkersburg seeking records about citations to individuals or organizations for soliciting funds without a permit. The request stems from citations issued to panhandlers standing at intersections with handmade signs asking for help from passing motorists.

Visit Parkersburg News and Sentinel for the rest.

2012 Digital Cities Survey winners announced

n this year's Digital Cities Survey, which highlights local governments demonstrating IT best practices to better serve its constituents, four cities took top honors: Louisville, Ky.; Salt Lake City; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Marana, Ariz. The Digital Cities Survey, now in its 12th year, is conducted by the Center for Digital Government (CDG), a division of Government Technology's parent company, eRepublic Inc. The survey was underwritten by AT&T, McAfee, ShoreTel and Sprint.

Visit Government Technology for the rest.

State rules in Wellesley (Mass.) schools' favor in public records request

Wellesley — The Massachusetts Supervisor of Public Records has sided with the Wellesley Public Schools in a dispute over the costs of a records request made by the Wellesley Townsman.

Visit The Wellesley Townsman for the rest.

Oklahoma lawmakers hear from open-government advocates

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma appears to be one of only three states in which the Legislature has exempted itself from open records laws, a Senate panel was told Tuesday. The other two states are Massachusetts and Oregon, said Joey Senat, associate professor at the Oklahoma State University School of Media and Strategic Communications.

Visit Tulsa World for the rest.

UNC audit uncovers $123,500 missing from performing arts series office

CHAPEL HILL -- The box office and business operation of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Performing Arts series could not account for $123,500 in revenue that disappeared between 2007 and 2011, according to an internal university audit. The yearlong audit revealed that during a four-year period, $121,000 in cash revenue and another $2,500 in checks were missing from the business operation that oversees the box office for performances at UNC-CH’s Memorial Hall and other arts events. The audit was released to The News & Observer following a public records request.

Visit Winston-Salem Journal for the rest.

Want a copy of your town's annual budget in New York? It's not as easy as it seems

Most of Broome County’s 16 towns this year failed to comply with a new state law that requires all municipalities to post their budget proposals online — if they have a website — before holding public hearings on them. And despite longstanding requirements under state law, two would not release paper copies of the budgets until after public hearings on them.

Visit pressconnects.com for the rest.

September 28, 2012 9:27 AM

From American Civil Liberties Union:

Today we sued the federal government to enforce Freedom of Information Act requests we filed over the summer to learn about how it is using a technology that can track Americans’ location with increasing efficacy: automated license plate readers. (See today’s legal complaint, our original FOIA requests, and a blog we posted when we made those requests.)

We know enough about the rapid expansion of this technology to be very concerned about it, but there’s a lot we don’t know.That is why ACLU affiliates from 38 states and Washington, D.C. filed records requests in July 2012 with their state and local police departments to find out how they are collecting, sharing, and storing our location data using these systems.

August 23, 2012 1:50 PM

Opinion from ACLU:

Andy Greenberg of Forbes published some shocking information, courtesy of a FOIA project done by our friends over at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC): US Customs and Border Protection is sharing our license plate information with private insurance companies, without any public debate or even forthright public disclosure.

From Forbes:

 
The FOIA’d records include memos outlining the sharing of that license plate data between the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and most significantly, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, an Illinois non-profit composed of hundreds of insurance firms including branches of Allstate, GEICO, Liberty, Nationwide, Progressive, and State Farm….

In other words, our worst fears about license plate recognition technology appear to be unfolding. The government is creating large pools of our location information and sharing it widely among law enforcement agencies nationwide, absent any mention of connections to investigations or criminal activity.

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