Just some housekeeping items to keep readers informed.
From now on, and soon to be applied retrospectively, all FOI documents will be subject to an OCR process prior to upload to the internet. This means that the documents can be ‘read’ by Google bots, and added to the Google index. It also means large scale documents can be searched for keywords. We believe this will add greater transparency to the documents we put into the public domain. The software we will be using will be Abbyy Finereader.
This should also serve as a warning. All too often Departments and public bodies are choosing to release information in hard copy, despite the information in question being held digitally, and our requests including a preference for digital versions. Where we receive information in hard copy, it will be scanned, OCRd and uploaded to the internet. There will be no escaping the Google spiders that are coming.
Additionally, some of our recent requests have been rejected, citing numerous exemptions. Where we believe these rejections are without merit we will appeal. This is a costly and time consuming process, but we believe that in the long run such a policy will pay dividends. Up until now it has been traditional for the main drafters of FOI requests, journalists, to almost always accept and never appeal rejections (either through lack of time, lack of funds, unfamiliarity with the Act or a combination of any of the three). This will not be our policy.
Where we believe the Act is in our side, we will vigorously pursue appeals all the way to the Information Commissioner and/or the High Court. We believe this policy is to the benefit of everyone who submits FOI requests, to the media, and to the public at large.
Lastly, we want to thank everyone who has donated money to assist us with our requests and appeals. We hope that the relatively constant stream of results being put online (and the subsequent stories in the newspapers based on our FOIs) are reward enough for such donations. We believe greater transparency using the internet is change we can believe in.