Now, more than ever, public organisations are trying to make themselves just that: public.
“The genie cannot be put back into the bottle, however hard authorities try,” writes John Kampfner in today’s Media Guardian. “The information relationship has shifted, but the power relationship has not. The Democracy recession is gathering pace.”
The general public now have a thirst for that most gritty and honest of information and journalists more than ever are gaining access to it.
This means that everyone is becoming more wary of the way in which both public and private organisations handle, store and release information for public consumption and record.
This is why we are mentioning onebillionpageviews: the anti-license fee website have offered a single download that allows access to all the Freedom of Information requests that the BBC received (and hosted on their site) before 2008, which were later removed.
First of all, it is shocking that whilst everyone is so tuned in to the way in which public organisations handle data that the BBC would simply remove a huge cache of data from their site.
Secondly, for the BBC to do anything this brave and seemingly careless with their data when websites like NoTVLicenseFee are willing to keep that store of data available for the foreseeable future seems counter to their nature as a ‘public’ organisation.
They have also chosen to host every freedom of information request that the BBC received since the big removal and any more that arise in the future.
It’s great that a site like this wants to hold organisations to account and make sure that data is readily available amongst the rise in public curiosity into how their money is being spent, but it is also important that massive organisations like the BBC are careful to not be caught in the crossfire that grows out of the “democracy recession”.
I think this post suffers from a lack of perspective. The BBC, like all organisations, have to make best use of their resources. In this case, my guess would be that there was an internal decision to remove their log of requests as part of a website redesign. Whilst that might irritate a few who are interested, I think you have to consider this in context. The BBC’s main reason to exist is to broadcast not to answer or publish FOI requests. No doubt if someone raised it with them they would consider reinstating the log, but even if not, people can gain access by making an FOI request. Whilst openness is obviously important, I’m not sure that this means that organisations will never remove anything from their websites, or that when they do, it makes them secretive!
Agree this is more likely cockup than conspiracy, although I can’t think of any good ‘resource-saving’ reason why you would remove FOI responses from a website. Storage space for those wouldn’t cost anything, the removal may cost more than leaving it there, and the FOI requests to get the old FOI requests would cost the corporation more money still, so all in all it’s a dumb piece of website redesign.
PS: I should add that I am not the author of the post!
Admittedly it’s not conspiracy, and wasn’t my intention when I put this article across in the way I did, but I think everyone is now looking to see the public ‘bodies’ step up when it comes to openness and it’s foolish to simply remove data willy-nilly, whether website redesign or not.It’s going to open up questions of suspicious activity to the most skeptical and those are the people to be most wary of, sadly.And yes, their main intention is to broadcast, but they broadcast in order to serve the public, and the FOIs they recieve are from people paying for this service and enquiring as to how it is being run, and they should be accessible by others who do not have the time to ask the questions themselves.