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Regulating Access to Information - Alex Parsons, mySociety (UK)

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Regulating Access to Information - Alex Parsons, mySociety (UK)

  1. 1. Regulating Access to Information 28th September 2021
  2. 2. mySociety and Access to Information ● mySociety are a UK not-for-profit that run WhatDoTheyKnow.com (and other sites like TheyWorkForYou, WriteToThem, and FixMyStreet). ● We produce Alaveteli software - the underlying code base that powers WhatDoTheyKnow, and similar sites across Europe. ● Our research and policy work seek to better understand problems to refine our services, and advocate for policy changes that achieve the wider goal behind those services: better informed and more active citizens. Reforming FOI
  3. 3. Using digital tools to promote access to information ● Exposing access points by making it easier to put online ● Scaling public information by putting it online ● Helping high impact stories by producing tools for journalists, researchers and campaigners. But... Reforming FOI
  4. 4. Using digital tools to promote access to information ● Exposing access points by making it easier to put online ● Scaling public information by putting it online ● Helping high impact stories by producing tools for journalists, researchers and campaigners. But... Reforming FOI
  5. 5. What if the access to information system doesn’t work? Reforming FOI
  6. 6. Roadblocks and advice ● Common that authorities withhold information that should be released. ● This requires navigating the appeals process. Technology can help with this. ● But… much more variation internationally. Reforming FOI
  7. 7. Two 2021 research projects ● Opportunities for reform in the UK (published in April) ● Appeals and oversight in ATI systems across Europe (aiming to be finished towards the end of the year) Reforming FOI
  8. 8. Different kinds of oversight organisation ● Is there an organization with a specific or general remit that covers access to information? ● Do they have any formal powers of investigation and enforcement? Reforming FOI
  9. 9. Different kinds of oversight organisation Reforming FOI Mediator Enforcer Specific Mediator Information Commissioner Regulator Information Commissioner General Ombudsman Courts
  10. 10. Grouping countries Using rti-rating.org indicators, we got scores for: ● How powerful is the oversight body? ● Is the oversight body politically independent? ● How effective is the review process? Based on this, we found six groupings of local authorities. Reforming FOI
  11. 11. Reforming FOI
  12. 12. Improving FOI In the UK Recommended: ● Moving oversight of information commissioner to Parliament, from Government. ● Separating the data protection and access to information roles into two offices. Reforming FOI
  13. 13. Thank you

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