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Process, technology and transparancy in FOIA and public records requests

Brenda Dodd
Mar 2, 2016 9:00:27 AM

The volume and complexity of FOIA and public records requests continues to grow exponentially and it has become an urgent process and technology problem for federal, state and local government agencies. Exacerbating these challenges are the increasing IT complexities of data collection as well as the legal complexities of determining responsiveness, redacting personally identifiable information (PII), and coding for exemptions. Together, these factors are causing backlogs, creating calls for greater public transparency, and eating away larger portions of departmental budgets.

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Evolving Process and Technology

Many Federal and State Government agencies have grown in-house FOIA and Public Records departments many times larger than their internal legal departments and are beginning to leverage technology workflows to streamline these business processes. Some of the technology features and processes creating the most dramatic efficiencies in eDiscovery are also being used to great effect in public records disclosure. Automation is key, so when analytics can be used during ingestion, to automatically surface potentially responsive records and categorize by exemption code, this has very positive effects on turnaround times and budgets.

The protection of privacy is also very important during public records disclosure because government document collections contain a variety of PII. Features that allow Public Disclosure Officers to set up known patterns, ahead of time, and run auto-redaction across collections, can save a massive amount of effort because this second-level review QC can be used to refine existing patterns, capture new ones, and amplify the expert’s skill across the document population.

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