Public Information Provision in the Digital Age: Implementation and Effects of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act
The U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires agencies to release records upon written request, except for those protected from disclosure by FOIA's exemptions and exclusions. Amendments to the Act in 1996 expanded the statutory definition of record to include information made available in electronic format. This report explores whether and how e-FOIA is affecting (or expected to affect) U.S. federal agency procedures, with special attention to the implications of e-FOIA for interactions with citizens and private-sector organizations. The goal is to enable the Dutch government to take these lessons into account in its preparation of legislative measures to incorporate an e component into its Act to Promote Open Government (Wet openbaarheid van bestuur, or WOB). The report concludes that implementation of the e-FOIA in the United States has led to more transparent access to data through guidance Web pages, and to cheaper access to data for more requesters by means of electronic reading rooms. The U.S. experience indicates that explicit incorporation of an e component into the WOB would be expected to lead to more transparent, often quicker, and certainly broader access to public data across the board, against lower costs per information request.