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Seven disclosure logs

Martin Rosenbaum | 14:15 UK time, Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Whatever happened to 'disclosure logs'? When freedom of information started in 2005, the government encouraged public authorities to post copies of FOI disclosures on their websites, so that they would easily be available to others as well as the person who asked for the material.

There doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm for disclosure logs in practice. I expected more public bodies to set them up than have done so, and some of those that were keen to start with now seem to hardly bother with posting many new disclosures.

This is reflected in the recently launched JISC Information Governance Gateway, a useful collection of resources for records management in higher education. It looks like the authors of this site have only managed to locate seven HE institutions with such a log.

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Why don’t more public authorities have disclosure logs? A good question - I think there are several reasons but it’s chiefly because logs are not currently a legal requirement or even a good practice recommendation and therefore inevitably have a low priority in the fight for organisational resources. The FOI Act requires every public authority to have a publication scheme. Despite low usage, and questionably value, organisations provide these and diligently keep them up to date. Perhaps it is time to ask whether openness would be better served by withdrawing this requirement and putting effort into other areas (e.g. disclosure logs).

Worth recognising that there are those who think disclosure logs would be of limited use, since individual requests are often quite specific. Another reason is undoubtedly that some public authorities feel that establishing a disclosure log might be giving people a stick to beat them with; few people enjoy self-flagellation. Lastly, once you have a disclosure log you have raised expectations and risk criticism if you don’t keep it up to date or if you try withdraw it (Peterborough City Council).

Just to add that I am project leader of the JISC Information Governance Gateway ("JIGG"). Anyone interested in FoI, data protection, copyright or records management is welcome to visit the site – it’s a pilot and feedback is warmly encouraged.

  • 2.
  • At 04:03 PM on 22 Nov 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

I like disclosure logs as a "customer" of the Freedom of Information Act. They make for great reading.

However I do not like disclosure logs as someone that works in a public authority subject to the Act. If you are small public authority, there is simply not enough resource available to publish, create and maintain these things.

Shame.

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