FOI Notes: Kenya, Norway, Scotland, India, Australia, EU, Samoa, Germany, Ireland, UN, OGP, US, Open Data, Algorithms, South Africa, Open Parliaments

7 June 2017

Kenya: Business Daily reports, “Companies in Kenya have been caught flat footed in implementing new anti-secrecy laws and are now scrambling to comply.”

Norway: A report (in Norwegian and English) by the Auditor General says the country is not living up to its reputation for transparency, according to a press release (in English). “Few other countries have transparency and the right of access to documents covered so extensively by law; however, this does not work in practice. This is due both to a lack of knowledge and to archiving systems that are insufficiently user-friendly”, said Auditor General Per-Kristian Foss. See articles in Norwegian here and here.

Scotland: Journalists have signed an open letter raising concerns about the way the Scottish government handles FOI requests, BBC reports.

India: The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information urges Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fill two positions of information commissioners at the Central Information Commission.

Australia: ABC reports: “There are fresh questions about the Right to Information (RTI) process in Tasmania with a legal expert describing an “elaborate infrastructure” designed to “minimise the amount of contentious information that might be released.”

European Union: A legal brief is filed by Article 19, the Campaign for Freedom of Information (CFOI) and the Access to Information Programme (AIP) in the case of Privacy International v. UK at the European Court of Human Rights. It addresses the intersection of FOI and national security.

Samoa: The Samoa Law Reform Commission is looking at the need for FOI legislation, according to an article in the Sunday Samoan.

Germany: The German Bundestag adopts the Federal Open Data Act, according to a description in the European Data Portal.

United Nations: A report by the UN Secretary General includes a brief note on FOI.

Legislation that calls for freedom of information has increased steadily, but slow or inefficient implementation of such laws remains a concern. More than 110 countries have adopted freedom of information legislation and policies. However, expert assessments suggest that 47 of those countries fall short of having clear legal provisions for exceptions to that right, while another 47 countries lack sufficient provisions for public education.

OGP: Two new civil society member have been selected for the OGP Steering Committee, the OGP announces. Giorgi Kldiashvili is a founding member and Director of the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), an NGO based in Georgia. Tur-Od Lkhagvajav holds several leading civil society positions, including as Co-Founder & President of Transparency International – Mongolia.

Algorithms: “How to report on algorithms even if you’re not a data whiz,” an article in Columbia Journalism Review by Daniel Trielli and Nicholas Diakopoulos. Also see video of lecture on Algorithmic Accountability by University of Maryland professor Ben Shneiderman.

Algorithms: The US Association for Computer Machinery and the ACM Europe Council Policy Committee issue a joint Statement on Algorithmic Transparency and Accountability with a list of seven principles designed to address potential harmful bias.

Ireland: Over 30,000 FOI requests were made in 2016, an increase of 8%, and a record, reports the information commissioner.

South Africa: A research report examines the demand for open data in South Africa and asks under what conditions meeting this demand might influence accountability. The authors report: “This research concludes that pursuing open government data initiatives is worthwhile and that there are many opportunities to take these much further. However, the experiences of the participants to date suggest that national-level open data portals are likely to be only one part of the solution. Decisions about which data to make open need to be based on demand; in particular, local data needs to be available, and at the local level. Also, open government may require more open government people, as well as more open data.”

Open Parliaments: Parliamentary reformers from over 50 countries meet in the Ukraine, according to an OGP report.

United States: “Taser — now known as Axon — claims part ownership of the footage generated by its police body cameras. That’s a huge problem,” is the headline for an article by Radley Balko, who blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post.

United States: Amendments to the South Carolina FOI law eliminate the possibility of criminal penalties for FOIA violations, reduce the waiting period for a response from 15 days to 10 and gives requesters a right to request digital records via electronic transmission, according to a media account.

United States: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approves the Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act (S 760, HR 1770) that would require federal agencies to publish all their information as open data – using standardized, nonproprietary formats.

United States: Why Is Access To Public Records Still So Frustratingly Complicated?, a commentary by journalist Steven Melendez. “Even with the Freedom of Information Act, requesting government records remains an arduous process—especially compared to the efficiency of the legal world.”

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