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A productivity boost for public records act and FOIA requests

Brenda Dodd | June 29, 2017

Exemptions, rules and timelines can vary depending on whether you are considering federal, state or local FOIA or Public Information Disclosures requests. A biggest part of the high level legal and IT 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.

Across the country, Public Records and Freedom of Information Acts are allowing public access to previously undisclosed records. The number of information requests increases exponentially. Organizations struggle with the burden to produce this 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.

Automating FOIA Process using the Electronic Discovery Reference Model
The public disclosure (IT) process is very similar to the (EDRM) eDiscovery process

There is a great deal of overlap between FOIA and FRCP. Like in a regular eDiscovery process, locating (FOIA) records is a time consuming task.

The complex nature of email based FOIA requests has resulted in massive document sets. This creates challenges with regard to de-duplication of data and the ability to conduct advanced data queries.

In addition identifying records that meet exception, confidentiality, and personal information criteria, while maintaining transparency and guarding the ability to defend the disclosure in the court create extra procedural challenges.

 

The Need to Automate the FOIA Process

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.

A key component of for a successful technology solution to handle the FOIA process is the use of analytics to cull data as well as pre-identify content based on text analysis.

Technology that pre-redacts information is also extremely beneficial. Most of the information redacted by governmental agencies is personally identifiable information (PII), and is in a known location or the same location for multiple FOIA requests. Although redaction templates exist in multiple FOIA redacting tools, they can be rudimentary. An eDiscovery tool that assists in locating responsive records and automatically redacts known exempt material 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 eDiscovery 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.

Written by Brenda Dodd

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