FOIA wishes

James Madison is often invoked in discussions on freedom of information and his memorable words “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both” are at the foundation of our rationale for freedom of and access to information.

March 16, Madison’s birthday, is celebrated as Freedom of Information day, and often serves as an opportunity to both celebrate and take stock of the state of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the U.S.
Sunshine week is celebrated this year on March 16-22 and affords many opportunities to learn about and promote free of information.

Here is my freedom of information day wish – I would like to be able to sign up to receive alerts from agencies of my choice whenever their record of information they hold on me changes. Instead of my having to file a FOIA request to the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) asking to see the records they maintain about me, I would like to be able to subscribe and receive an e-mail alert every time my record is updated. Then I can login to the system that holds my record and see the changes made. Similarly, if there is an issue I follow I would like to receive alerts when a federal system of records is updated regarding that issue.
This is a natural next step to the proactive disclosure that the DHS committed to in their Aug. 26, 2009 memorandum.

And no, I will not accept the cybersecurity argument as a reason not to implement this practice.

Happy Sunshine week and Freedom of Information day.


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