FOI USA - 40 today
Today is the 40th anniversary of the introduction of freedom of information in the United States.
Some interesting research just published tackles the question of who makes most use of FOI in the US. The answer: in this latest survey over 60 per cent of FOI requests came from businesses pursuing their commercial interests. (The media accounted for 6 per cent of requests).
This would seem to be in stark contrast with the position here. According to Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, the evidence suggests that the largest category of users is ordinary members of the public. And the Scottish Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion also says that most of his complaints come from ordinary individuals.
(I don't know whether government ministers count as ordinary folk).
There are doubtless several factors behind this comparison, one of which may be that the US survey covered FOI at a federal level, while in the UK we are also talking about requests at the local as well as national level.
Nevertheless the discrepancy is very large: it seems clear that FOI is a business tool in the US in a way in which it just isn't in the UK.