A City University of New York (CUNY) Law School academic recently published a paper to the April edition of Government Information Quarterly arguing that federal agencies should treat the identities of Freedom of Information Act requesters with the same privacy protections as librarians extend to patrons.
Sarah Lamdan, a CUNY associate law library professor, argues in her paper that the routine online disclosure by agencies of the identities of FOIA requestors has potentially negative effects on the flow of information, because FOIA log information “could hint at upcoming news stories, potential lawsuit, and reveal where people work and what they are doing on a given day.”
She notes that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in 2011 asked 180 federal agencies to send the names of people who requested documents under FOIA, as well as a description of the information sought and the date of the request. Lamden calls the congressman’s request “intrusive” because “assumptions about requestors’ rationales can be hasty conclusions that imperil personal freedoms.” Read the full article here.
In the act of seeking public information, should requesters become subjects of public information themselves? Is there any harm to publically releasing FOIA requester names and request information? Is the fact that requester information can become public a possible deterrent to future requesters and the flow of public information?