Posts Tagged ‘freedom of information’

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hands off foi logo Petitioning Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General Matthew Hancock MPThe Freedom of Information Act established the broad principle that public bodies must release information if the public interest in doing so outweighs the public interest in it remaining secret.

We, the undersigned, urge the Government not to do anything which would detract from that principle.

In particular we urge you:

  • to ensure that the Act continues to allow for the release of internal discussions at local and central government level when there is a public interest in doing so
  • not to seek to create any new veto powers over the release of information
  • not to introduce charges for Freedom of Information Act requests or appeals.

Any charges could dramatically undermine the ability of requesters, including regional press journalists and freelances in particular, to use the Act to hold authorities to account.

Investigative journalism is time-consuming, expensive and sometimes difficult to justify for news organisations which are under financial pressure. It needs to be nurtured and encouraged, for the benefit of society and democracy, not subject to Freedom of Information charges which would be effectively be a tax on journalism.

This petition was launched by Press Gazette as part of the Society of Editors’ Hands Off FoI campaign. It also has the backing of the Campaign for Freedom of Information.

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ICO logo The following Freedom of Information requesthas been lodged with the Information Commissioner’s Office on the 10th August 2015 about the status ofATVOD in regards to being liable to service Freedom of Information requests:

Dear Information Commissioner’s Office,

Please release:

1. Minutes and records of all discussions or documents relating to the consideration of whether ATVOD should be accountable under the FoIA.

2. Representations made by ATVOD as to the process to determine their accountability under the act.

Yours faithfully,

Mr Harding

I’m not really sure why there should be a debate. ATVOD reports directly to the government and also to the official state censors Ofcom. In addition ATVOD enforces censorship rules specified directly by the two government departments: The Department of Culture media & Sport; and the Crown Prosecution Service.

ATVOD claims to be a ‘co-regulator’ representing both the government and the industry, but given that ATVOD has spent its entire life crucifying a large section of the UK internet trade, it seems to be a bit of a one sided co-regulation relationship.

Surely ATVOD is a state censor, and as such should be open to freedom of information requests.

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Freedom of Information logoThe Authority for Television On Demand is a supposedly independent co-regulator for the editorial content of UK video on demand services. However the government seems to be in the driving seat when it comes to restricting access to porn.

ATVOD is not formally subject to Freedom of Information law, but is listed on due to its public regulatory role.

This site assists in the process of making Freedom of Information requests to ATVOD and others.

Make a new Freedom of Information request to The Authority for Television On Demand Freedom of Information requests made using this site

Nobody has made any Freedom of Information requests to The Authority for Television On Demand using this site yet.

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Freedom of Information logoThe Ministry of Justice is in consultation about expanding the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to include the advertising censors at the ASA.

The ASA will argue that it should not be covered by the act because it could compromise the goodwill it shares with the advertisers it relies on for funding.

There are also concerns that commercially sensitive information provided to confirm advertising claims may be compromised.

The censor will also argue that it already provides a transparent service.It claims on its website that it tries to be helpful and transparent when answering queries and will provide detailed information and responses wherever possible.

The proposal to add the ASA to the bodies covered by the act will be included in the Freedom Bill. A statutory consultation between the Ministry of Justice and the ASA will follow with a decision expected later this year.

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name and shame logoAdrian Short’ submitted an easy-to-answer Freedom of Information request to Transport for London (TfL) about usage of Boris Bikes. He is a big fan and, having helped to promote them, wanted to plug their success.

But… he wrote:

if I want to get a response to my FOI request from TfL I am asked to enter into a contract with them whose terms include:

2.1.2 [You shall] only use the Transport Data in accordance with these Terms and Conditions and the Syndication Developer Guidelines, and not use such information in any way that causes detriment to TfL or brings TfL into disrepute. The rights granted to You under these Terms and Conditions are limited to accessing and displaying or otherwise making available the Transport Data for the purposes stated by You in Your registration.

So not only is TfL’s contract explicitly asking me to state my motive as a precondition of access, it also constrains me from using the information for any other purpose and arguably prevents me from using that information to criticise TfL, thereby causing it detriment or bringing it into disrepute. If I don’t agree to this they can deny access altogether and if I subsequently break the agreement in their view they can revoke access. This is a funny kind of free information.

That is absolutely disgraceful. No public authority has the right to withhold data on the basis that it might be used to the detriment of that authority. Part of the point of the Freedom of Information Act is that it might reveal something to the detriment of the Authority in question – that’s the purpose of facilitating openness and scrutiny in the first place.

We at Big Brother Watch are extremely concerned by this development. If TfL behaves likes this and can get away with it, then others will follow.

So – this is a call to arms. Please link to this blog post or to Adrian’s original original write-up on Facebook, on Twitter, on any blog to which you might have access. If you care about the future of Freedom of Information Act – or about the future of information, or the future of freedom – then it’s up to you.

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