Earlier this year, Chris Whong made a FOIL request
to the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, receiving fare and trip data for all licensed cabs in New York in 2013. (previously
) The data was anonymised, but as Vijay Pandurangan realised, only partially. [more inside]
Esri Enables Federal Agencies To Open GIS Mapping Data To The Public
ESRI is the world's leading maker of GIS software. Their initiative is incredibly important in making mapped/mappable data available to the world. They are basically giving government agencies an Easy Button for opening this up to the public. [more inside]
"She said that there was a plot by the teacher to kill the father and the kids to kill the teacher. There was also a part where a little boy watched a little girl pee. She says that in the episode the whole town goes cannibalistic and begins to eat each other. The mother is advised to kill her daughter, which she does, with the understanding she can apologize to her in hell. The father Simpson is revered as a savior and he sings a song announcing he is gay and advises the population of men to, "find a man!". There was swearing and cursing as well."
Informal complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the television show ‘The Simpsons,’ 2010-2013 [more inside]
File FOI requests in different countries
Use Alaveteli to create Freedom of Information requests from governments around the world, the full responses will be posted. Read what has been posted US Drones
Pro-government newspaper Gulf News reports that five Emirati bloggers go on trial today
behind closed doors. While blogging has been on the rise in the UAE
, internet access is tightly controlled by state-run Etisalat, many sites, including Flickr Groups
and lists of blogs
, blocked by the Etisalat firewall.
The UK Government has published extracts from COINS, the Combined Online Information System
used by the Treasury to track all public spending by the Government. Together, the files
constitute about 11Gb of data in delimited text format containing consolidated financial information for each department and account type. [more inside]
What is the Association of Chief Police Officers
(ACPO)? It is a private company, financed by UK taxpayers, immune from freedom of information requests.
It dictates police operations and sells police national computer data.
It may also be engaged in covert domestic surveillance
of what it deems as extremists:
antiwar protesters, strikers, and others. According to an ACPO spokesperson ""there doesn't seem to be a single, commonly agreed definition."
A senator places a secret hold on a bill designed to counter secrecy in government
. The Society of Professional Journalists
, which supports the bill, smoked out Senator Jon Kyl
(R-AZ) as the source of the hold, one of the more obscure parliamentary tactics possible in the Senate. The bill in question is the OPEN Government Act of 2007
, which is an overhaul of the Freedom of Information Act. (See also.)
Kyl claims the bill would force the release of "sensitive information."
Kyl is also behind a measure that would criminalize the leaking of classified information
Mike Petrelis from 2000 through 2005 and found that major media have used the law on the DoD less than 50 times each in five years. E&P asks
if reporters are using the law enough and some think that points to the media's laziness
, others think they're missing the point
FBI Papers Indicate Intelligence Violations
...Records turned over as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit also indicate that the FBI has investigated hundreds of potential violations related to its use of secret surveillance operations, which have been stepped up dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but are largely hidden from public view...
A just released report [pdf]
from the organization OpenTheGovernment.org
states that the federal government has been classifying records at an astonishing rate. An example from the report: "The 'state secrets' privilege allows the sitting U.S. president to nearly unilaterally withhold documents from the courts, Congress, and the public. At the height of the Cold War, the administration used the privilege only four times between 1953 and 1976. Since 2001, it has been used 23 times." Lots more numbers like that in the report. A newspaper summarizes the report here
“It is important to the future of our Nation to recognize that there is a problem of credibility today.”
Government has an obligation to present information to the public promptly and accurately so that the public’s evaluation of Government activities is not distorted. “The administration should clarify its intent … People lack confidence in the credibility of our government. Even our allies are beginning to suspect what we say. It’s a difficult thing today to be informed about our government even without all the secrecy”
Freedom of Information
The Department of Defense has released a training video for teaching its staff how to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests. Oddly enough, we can't get a look at it because its classified. "It seems ironic, very ironic," says Mike Ravnitzky, a writer for American Lawyer magazine. Ravnitzky's request for the video was turned down twice, with the Defense Department citing the Freedom of Information Act's trade secret exemption. These government people are a laff riot.
Department of Homeland Security to be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and the Whistleblower Protection Act?
The last episode of NOW
ran a piece on the FOIA
which described how back in 1974 President Ford and his staff, which included Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, opposed Congress' strengthening of the FOIA, and Ford tried unsuccessfully to veto it. Now this new exemption looks like the continuation of a 28 year-old feud. Ridge says it is in order to not "draw a road map of critical infrastructure vulnerabilities,"
but are complete exemptions really necessary for that? The potential for abuse seems quite dangerous. (Some previous discussions of FOIA revelations here
U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher On Why The DMCA Sucks
has a Great Editorial
by Rick Boucher
who says traditional "fair use" rights are at the foundation of the receipt and use of information by the American people, and those rights are now under attack.
He goes on to say Congress agreed to a fundamentally flawed bill, which created the new crime of circumvention--a crime divorced from over a century and a half of respect for the fair-use rights of consumers. The DMCA, as enacted, quite clearly tilted the balance in the Copyright Act toward complete protection and away from information availability.
"Consider the implications. A time may soon come when what is available for free on library shelves will only be available on a pay-per-use basis. It would be a simple matter for a copyright owner to impose a requirement that a small fee be paid each time a digital book or video documentary is accessed by a library patron. Even the student who wants even the most basic access to only a portion of the book to write a term paper would have to pay to avoid committing a crime."
blair postpones freedom of information act
until 2005, despite being a labour party pledge for 25 years...... after the undemocratic anti-terrorism legislation forced through parliament on monday, what hope for real civil liberties in the uk?
The U.S. Department of Justice
issued a revised memorandum
for how to treat requests received under the Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) that establishing a "sound legal basis" rather than the existing "foreseeable harm" standard for defending FOIA request refusals in court, John Ashcroft FOIA Memorandum, October 12, 2001. This was part of the EFF link below, but it's probably disturbing enough to have it's own discussion.
Is The Media's "Whining" About Access Justified?
A journalist criticizes his colleagues: "The disconnect between the U.S. media and the public they purport to serve has turned into a virtual chasm in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks."
What are/should be the limits on the ability of the press to obtain unfettered information in sensitive times?