FBI Throws Up Digital Roadblock to Transparency

FBI Throws Up Digital Roadblock to Transparency | Electronic Frontier Foundation – The FBI’s decision to abandon email—a free and ubiquitous method of communication—as a means of sending in FOIA requests will make sending requests to the agency far more difficult. The decision will thus undoubtedly thwart both transparency and accountability, and the FBI must be well aware of this. In a world in which thermostats and toasters are increasingly connected to the Internet, the FBI’s rejection of emailed FOIA requests is a slap in the face to transparency. The FBI’s decision is all the more galling given that other agencies are currently embracing technologies that both help people making FOIA requests and help the agencies more efficiently and effectively process them.

What’s more, the FBI’s alternative solution—it’s new “E-FOIA” website website—is no solution at all. The website places a 3,000 character limit on requests and has technical barriers that prevent automated FOIA requests. These constraints significantly limit the amount of information people can seek via a single request and needlessly slow down the process.

Perhaps the biggest problem is the website’s terms of service, which place limits on the types of requests that can be filed digitally. They suggest the website will not accept FOIA requests seeking records about FBI operations, activities, or communications. Not only does this make no sense from a technical standpoint, it runs directly counter to the very purpose of FOIA: ensuring that the public can learn about an agency’s operations and activities.

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