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Freedom of Information Act Pilots: agencies piloting release-to-one is release-to-all policy

July 4, 2015 was the 49th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the law that embodies the Federal Government’s commitment to public accountability through transparency.

Today, as part of its Open Government Initiative, the Administration is launching pilots at seven agencies to test the feasibility of publishing online the records released to individual requesters under the FOIA. These pilots will explore ways to increase government transparency and give citizens more information about government decisions and policies.

The U.S. Department of Justice already encourages agencies to publish FOIA responses online when agencies anticipate or receive three or more requests for the information. Expanding that policy to the publishing of FOIA responses after just one request raises implementation challenges and questions. That is why we are launching a six-month pilot program to determine the viability of implementing such a policy for all Federal agencies subject to the FOIA.

The pilots will seek to answer many important questions, including: costs associated with such a policy, effect on staff time required to process requests, effect on interactions with government stakeholders, and the justification for exceptions to such a policy, such as for personal privacy. For privacy reasons, participating agencies will not post online responses to requests in which individuals seek access to information about themselves.

The pilots will take place at the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, as well as within components of the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and National Archives and Records Administration. (Note: the Environmental Protection Agency has been publishing online its FOIA responses since October 2012, and will continue to do so.)

The results of this six-month pilot program will be made available to the public, and we intend to be transparent about the pilots and their implementation by participating agencies. We also invite the public’s feedback as we explore this proposed policy shift, and welcome innovative ideas and suggestions for overcoming the implementation challenges. Comments should be sent to the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy at releasetoall@usdoj.gov.

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