Back in Nov. 2008 , the organization OMB Watch called for an online FOIA (Freedom of Information Act ) web site that would allow submission of requests, track the progress of the response by agencies and be able to search a collection of stored released responses.
Traditionally, submission and responses to FOIA requests from citizens and companies, had been conducted by submitting a written request to each agency and waiting to hear back whether the request would be fulfilled. If more than one agency had to review the proposed release, it could take a long time before even that happened. Also, there was no single place to search for previously released FOIA responses.
Last month, the OMB Watch recommendation came to fruition in the form of the FOIA Online, which was originally developed by the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA), in partnership with the Department of Commerce and the National Archives and Records Administration, as the “FOIA Module”, which was designed to deal with these shortcomings and provide significant new functionality for the producing agencies and the requesting end users.
Here are two slides from a Commerce Dept. Training document that concisely conveys what functions the new module provides for both :
At present FOIA Online provides processing tool for these agencies :
- Department of Commerce (except the US Patent and Trademark Office),
- Environmental Protection Agency,
- Federal Labor Relations Authority,
- Merit Systems Protection Board,
- National Archives and Records Administration - Office of General Counsel.
Users who wish to submit a request are encouraged to create an account that will allow them to :
- Track progress on all of your requests submitted through FOIAonline via a personal dashboard;
- Communicate directly with the agency at all points in the process;
- Have your contact information pre-populated in future requests;
- Receive notification when the status of your request has changed.
Hopefully, additional agencies will become participants in FOIA Online which is based on the “Shared Service” concept that helps eliminate waste and duplication and improve the effectiveness of technology solutions for government agencies and the public they are to serve.