Online FOIA Request Portal Ready for Business
Fittingly, given that this week marks Sunshine Week – the “annual nationwide celebration of access to public information” and government transparency – the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have unveiled the new FOIA.gov – the official website for submitting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
The website has been two years in the making after being Congressionally mandated in 2016. OPM and DOJ were directed to build a “consolidated online request portal that allows a member of the public to submit a request for records under subsection (a) to any agency from a single website.”
The Sunlight Foundation, which in 2016 released its recommendations for improving FOIA.gov, called the new site a “significant improvement.”
The new website includes a number of critical features, including cleaner datasets and reports and an API allowing outside agencies and organizations to easily integrate with portions of the site.
The Sunlight Foundation called the new website “a sterling example of what people can build together, over time, when Congress mandates action in the wake of an agency not following through on an open government commitment,” noting that the website is “a step forward,” despite what are sure to be frustrations from some FOIA requestors, in light of “the many different systems that federal agencies use to handle public records requests.”
The website launch corresponds with other FOIA developments, including at the Bureau of Land Management, which has proposed decreasing the number of FOIA requests individuals and organizations can submit, while also increasing the cost associated with submitting FOIA requests to the Interior Department.
Said, Ryan Shapiro, former research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, “Now more than ever, FOIA must be defended and expanded, not eviscerated…”
Posted in General News