NFOIC by Todd Fettig
March 15, 2021
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA, March 15, 2021 — The greatest threats to government transparency today are continued secrecy provisions added to state public record laws, particularly exemptions intended to protect personal privacy and police information. That’s according to open government advocates affiliated with the National Freedom of Information Coalition.
Other threats to transparency include the lack of adequate enforcement for agencies that violate open records laws, general hostility by government officials toward the laws, and exorbitant fees that prevent average citizens from accessing the records they are entitled to.
The threats were identified in a survey of 39 state and local open government coalitions during the first week of March. The survey, administered by the National Freedom of Information Coalition, asked state and local groups, “What are the three greatest threats, in order, to transparency in your state?”
The coalitions identified these eight most common threats to government transparency: 2021 States of Denial cover
- Lack of enforcement
- Officials hostile toward FOI
- Fees too high
- Legislature hostile to FOI
- Public apathy
- Pandemic-related secrecy
- Partisan politics
“There have been several recent legislative attempts to crack down on access to people’s names and contact information, particularly email addresses and cell phone numbers,” said Megan Rhyne, of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government and vice president of the NFOIC. “The stated concern has been privacy, but it’s not privacy in the legal, constitutional sense. Instead, there’s a desire to be anonymous or to be left alone, even though someone
is interacting with the government.”