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4 reasons to automate the public records act and FOIA requests process

Brenda Dodd
Jun 13, 2019, 12:00:00 AM

Exemptions, rules and timelines can vary depending on whether you are considering federal, state or local FOIA or public information disclosures requests. For the most part, the response process however, is similar. For all agencies, automation of the process creates significant time and resource savings and reduces errors and risks for citizens, employees or organizations by preventing accidental disclosures. Here are four reasons to automate the public records act and FOIA requests process. 

1. The number of information requests increases exponentially

Across the country, Public Records and Freedom of Information Act requests are growing at a staggering rate.  Municipalities and agencies are required to allow public access to an ever increasing amount of previously undisclosed records. As a result they struggle with the burden to produce public information within the strict time frame dictated by the various acts. Cost for identification, collection, review, redaction and production of the requested information are high and ever increasing.  

2. The public disclosure process is very similar to the eDiscovery process

The public disclosure process is very similar to the eDiscovery process. There is a great deal of overlap between FOIA and FRCP, and like in a discovery request, the task of gathering, analyzing, and providing information in response to requests is a time consuming task.

Any eDiscovery professional will be the first to tell you that technology has significantly changed the discovery process. So why should the FOIA disclosure process be any different? The use of technology can streamline data identification and collection, increase efficiency and accuracy and reduce the amount of manual review by enabling automatic identification of potentially sensitive information so that you can focus on what is most important.

3. Speed, defensibility and completeness of the disclosure are essential

Speed, defensibility and completeness of the disclosure are essential and anything to simplify the location of relevant records improves the overall process. The smaller and more precise the record set gets, the easier the FOIA process will be.

With automation you get standardization and consistency.  You can control the entire process from intake to how the data is collected, who is reviewing and analyzing it and how and when it is disclosed to the requesting party.

Because you are handling requests in consistent way, your process becomes repeatable and defensible.

4. Technology can pre-redact personally identifiable information (PII)  

The most time consuming process is redaction and the most common information redacted by governmental agencies is personally identifiable information (PII). PII exists in almost every document and the process of using redaction tape, permanent markers or even rudimentary redaction applications on a page by page basis is no longer an option. 

Technology such as an eDiscovery tool that assists in locating responsive records and automatically redacts known exempt material in bulk is very useful to any FOIA or open records complaint office.

ZyLAB ONE eDiscovery for FOIA and PRA

In the recording of the webinar “A Productivity Revolution for PRA and FOIA Requests” we use practical cases and best practices to show many possible levels of automation to optimize the process of handling public records and FOIA requests.

ZyLAB ONE offers the most complete solution to collect from and search directly across various data sources: email boxes, Office 365, file shares, other electronic content repositories and even paper collections to identify potentially relevant documents.

Collected document can be automatically classified per department, document type, custodian, withholding reasons, exemptions and many other relevant document categories. Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and Protected Health Information (PHI) is automatically redacted.

The solution offers easy to use review and production functionality, including powerful review accelerators and reporting functionality developed in the demanding world of eDiscovery.

More on ZyLAB ONE eDiscovery for FOIA in our eBook.