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24

It is very recommended and would very likely smooth the process by at least an order of magnitude.


21

Often any request for information, formally or informally, is a FOIA request. But either way, talking to someone specific has helped a lot in my experience. My favored approach: See if the info is anywhere online. If it isn't... Find someone in the office holding the data and talk to them about what data they collect. Way easier than doing the back and ...


16

A common strategy used by journalists I've worked with is to first FOIA a data schema or other explanation of how the data is managed by the government body. This allows you to be much more explicit in constructing your actual request. And as rcackerman noted, you may not actually have to start with a FOIA -- but ask them what they have and how they have it,...


8

There is information available for FOIA requesters on the website of the Federal FOIA Ombudsman, in the office of Government Information Services (OGIS) within the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Their website includes best practices for FOIA requesters. While the current information does not appear to directly address your question, the ...


8

The basics for FOIA are: be very clear in your request be respectful be tenacious Remember that while there are government officials who are hostile to records requests, not all of them are. There are many people in government who want to do the right thing. There are a few websites designed to help you file FOIA requests. In the US, Muck Rock has been ...


8

This depends on which city you are in too- as of last year in Oakland if you did ask for the exact same request, it may not have helped you much as the process was so poorly setup they couldn't always benefit from repeat efficiencies. But now we have an online request system that published all requested info by default- except certain crime info which is ...


6

Short answer: No. As other people have said, the recipient of the FOIA information is not obligated to share it with others. There are some FOIA allowances for the needs and benefits of providing information to media, primarily with regards to fee waivers, but the recipient can do whatever they like with the information once they have it... including keeping ...


6

The Open Data Policy and Executive Order are for federal datasets and does not mandate the same for state or local governments, although such policies does influence more local policies. See http://www.data.gov/opendatasites for a large (but not comprehensive) listing of Open Data sites at the international, state and local levels. For state-level open ...


6

No real drawbacks that I can think of. If there is some question about the data being unusually sensitive, it might be better to take it up through FOIA first but this is pretty rare. In general the more you can make things personal the better your chances are of getting exactly what you are looking for. Ideally, this means they know what you want and you ...


5

Another useful method is to write an open letter to the agency requesting the dataset and articulating why it's important for them to release it. By partnering with an NGO or business that might share your interest and adding some heft to it, you can further increase the soft pressure. A specific public facing pressuring can be a good way to put the ...


5

In general, it is good to have a sense of the most common ways machine-readable data is available (eg, API access, CSV/Excel, etc). With this knowledge, make a phone call to the appropriate government official and chat with them about what they have available. Verbally ask them if they have specific formats, or if they have a database (and if so, can they ...


5

Sales tax records for an individual business are probably protected (or exempted) by FOIA authorizing legislation as competitive business records. With that information, a competitor could determine quite a lot about an individual business. Much like an individual's income tax returns are not public, you'll probably not be able to drill down to the level ...


5

The receiver does not have to republish. If you make a new request, you may get a response very quickly since the original agency already responded to the City Weekly request.


4

Summarizing from a thread on NICAR-L, Many reporters found that is was helpful to include technical terms in request, like "ASCII text", "manipulatable digital format", "Excel, CSV or other delimited text or spreadsheet format". The journalists seemed to think this helped because such a request would be more likely routed to someone who understood how ...


4

The Urban Institute published a good guide for those seeking data from local sources. Some of the information pertains to organizations seeking data (rather than individuals), but some of this has relevance to anyone. http://www.neighborhoodindicators.org/library/guides/nnip-lessons-local-data-sharing In building relationships with others, it often can be a ...


3

the only successful foia is the one that you do not make... OR the one that you make, but only after acquiring a hard-copy of the data you seek prior to making it. that way, when feds say, we don't have it, parts are missing, or they just white out 99% of the document, you can pull out the ace up the sleeve and blammo: you can prove it with cold, hard ...


3

Your question depends on a few important things for context- If you want a long, productive and helpful relationship with the agency in question, then it does benefit you to create some personal connection first. We always meet with and get to know the analysts who will be responding to requests- that consistently yields a higher quality of response and ...


3

The City of Oakland tacitly agreed to make the shotspotter data open, and the firm representative was eager to do so, but they've not followed up by doing so. They did release it in bulk in Washington however, not real time.


2

Look at this question about official/unofficial data requests. Similarly, I've found it useful to ask questions about what data (or maybe just paper files) exist so you can ask for exactly what you want.


2

I'm going to provide additional context to consider: From my experience working 7 years as a data journalist and editor, I've been through the 'data acquisition' hoop-jump more times than I can count. Here's the thing to remember: While open data laws require disclosure, they generally do not require disclosure of the data in any particular format. Ideally, ...


1

United States of America The Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey conducted by the United States Census included the following information for trucks, which included SUV's and minivans: Vehicle Acquisition Month and Year Vehicle Make and Model Year Vehicle Disposal Month and Year The data is predominantly truck focused as it was previously referred to as the ...


1

All public records are covered by FOIA, except for those exempt by stipulation, which in my experience varies for each organization. These could be exempt in your locality, but I highly doubt it. I'm assuming that you are in Colorado by your avatar, so here's Denver's sales tax records for the last year: http://www.denvergov.org/Portals/344/documents/...


1

Given most local laws and regulations allow for a 2-3 week response time, I imagine you'd have to request the records before they exist, and word your request in such a way that it can "never" be completely fulfilled.


1

In the United Kingdom the law is currently being changed to provide a 'Right to Data' as part of the Freedom of Information legislation, so if requesting from a UK Authority then it may be useful to reference the draft Code of Practice (datasets) which states that an authority 'Disclose datasets in an electronic form which is capable of re-use'.


1

Perhaps asking for the data in a machine-readable format like X, Y, or Z and expressly requesting it not be in PDF. (Disclaimer - I am the Sr. API Strategist for GSA)


1

there is no correct answer here, it just depends. as everyone else has pointed out how the approach prior and relationship building is fruitful, here's when its not: when that data is hot-topic, off-topic, explosive journalism, etc. probing could lead to a clamp down not just from them, but from their contacts. if you catch them off guard, you may get what ...


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