Services and Transactions

Use Websites to Bring FOIA into the 21st Century

Agencies should use their websites to bring the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) into the 21st century. Every agency should allow the public to submit and track FOIA requests, and to receive responses, on the agency website.

 

Specifically, each agency should have an email address and a web form where the public can submit FOIA requests. All agency websites should include an easy-to-understand explanation of how to submit a FOIA request, what to expect from the agency, and links to more detailed information. To reduce costs, agencies should correspond with requesters by email unless the requester asks for mail. Every agency should have an online service where requesters can automatically check the status of their request or appeal by entering their tracking number on a website.

 

Agencies should also use their websites to post more documents online, which would strengthen transparency. All documents released under FOIA should be posted on the agency website. In addition, each agency should proactively post information before receiving a FOIA request, including identifying particular records of broad public interest and establishing types of records to be routinely posted online.

 

This idea was submitted by OMB Watch. See our full suggestions for improving federal websites: http://ombwatch.org/node/11838

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Idea No. 425