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UK to review Freedom of Information Act – Web Foundation responds

Web Foundation · July 20, 2015

On Friday, the UK Government announced a review of the Freedom of Information Act, citing the UK’s first-place ranking in our Open Data Barometer.

Our CEO, Anne Jellema, responded by urging the UK Government not to use the UK’s ranking as an excuse to water down the FOIA, and called on the Government to appoint a transparency specialist to the commission panel:

We were frustrated to learn that the UK Government has used its ranking in our Open Data Barometer in an effort to justify a move that could water down the Freedom of Information Act.

The ODB primarily measures the supply, use and impact of data in reusable formats and is not a comprehensive measure of government openness in the broader sense. The UK’s first place ranking should not be an excuse to undo progress. In fact, it gives the UK a responsibility to enhance and continually improve as an example to the rest of the world. The fact that the UK Government is taking a step back when the UK still lags behind many other European countries on important measures of transparency and accountability, such as limits to state surveillance powers, and freedom of the press, is of great concern.

Open data initiatives rely on proactive disclosure, but it is vital that open data is reinforced by strong freedom of information mechanisms to ensure citizens can access what government agencies may not wish to disclose. We urge the Government to uphold its Freedom of Information Act, and appoint a panel member with expertise in government transparency to ensure all points of view are considered.”

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