A key element of answering President Obama’s and Attorney General Holder’s call for agencies to work with FOIA requesters “in a spirit of cooperation” is the use of good communication practices. As a result, in 2010 OIP released guidance which addressed a number of areas where better communication with requesters could improve overall FOIA administration across the government. Today, after continued engagement with both agencies and the requester community, we have released our second installment of guidance on this topic.
Building off the 2010 guidance, our new guidance “encourages greater use of email or other technology as the means by which agencies communicate with requesters.” The guidance also focuses on improving the content of agency communications to provide requesters with a greater understanding of how their requests are being handled.
The specific topics addressed by this new guidance are:
- Using Technology to Further Improve Communications with Requesters,
- Communicating Electronically with Requesters as the Default,
- Alerting the Public to any Limitations on the Use of Electronic Communications,
- Providing Links to Information Already Available Online,
- Communicating in a “Spirit of Cooperation,”
- Providing Requesters With a Breakdown of Fees and an Explanation When Fees Might be Higher than Expected,
- Making it Easy to Narrow Requests
By improving the means by which agencies communicate with FOIA requesters as well as the content of those communications, agencies will help promote greater understanding of the FOIA process and facilitate timely access to information. Through continued improvements in this area, agencies will be able to make concrete steps towards affirming their commitment to President Obama’s and Attorney General Holder’s vision of working with requesters in a “spirit of cooperation.”