Friday, September 23, 2016

"Cluttering the internet"

In New Zealand the right of access to official information is well-established, and the introduction of FYI, an online service to make it easy, was uncontroversial. While a few agencies - notably the NZ Police - waste everyone's time by being dicks about the OIA's outdated eligibility rule, most are happy to accept requests from it. But in Australia, its a different story:

The Australian Tax Office has escalated a row with a website that facilitates freedom of information requests, claiming it "clutters the internet".


Last month, the ATO announced it would not cooperate with the [RightToKnow] website claiming it published the names of department staff and exposed abuse, stress, anxiety and damage to professional reputation.

Correspondence released under FOI laws reveal the ATO considered launching a court injunction to remove "offending material on the grounds it was defamatory, or threatening in a criminal sense".

RightToKnow publishes exactly and only what the ATO release. So if they publish the names of ATO staff members, it is because the ATO did not redact them (and I'm assuming that, as in NZ, names can be redacted for privacy purposes). But more generally, it exposes a deep unease in the Australian public service about freedom of information, and FOIA requests being public and publicly available. Its a toxic mindset, and one they will need to fix if they wish to be a modern democracy.