Before open data, there was FOIA. Beginning in 1967, the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) empowered the public to request access to government documents. Unfortunately, some branches of government quickly began to push back, and within the decade the infamous phrase "can neither confirm nor deny" had been devised to avoid releasing information.
This came to exemplify the adversarial relationship between the public and government. Yet public records requests (also known as FOIL, Right-to-Know, public information or open records requests, depending on where you are) remain a fundamental way in which the public is able to obtain information from government agencies under FOIA-like laws in all fifty states.
Our government institutions produce valuable data and documents that form the raw material for storytelling, journalistic inquiry, analysis, and meaningful public participation; they are also central to ensuring accountability through transparency. Continue>>>