OIP Director Pustay Endorses FOIA e-Discovery Technology

“An area that I believe holds great promise in increasing the efficiency of agency FOIA processes is the use of litigation software in the FOIA context. Agencies often have to manually review hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of paper and electronic records for both responsiveness and duplication before disclosure analysis can even be made. By utilizing e-discovery tools to perform some of these necessary administrative tasks, agency FOIA staff can focus their efforts on reviewing records for disclosure and providing a timely response.”

               – Melanie Pustay – Director, US Department of Justice/Office of Information Policy
                      Testimony before House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, March 21, 2012

Manual processing of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests is an extensive, time consuming, and labor intensive process. Reviewers spend hours searching for potentially responsive documents, both physical and electronic. Each document must then go through a series of redactions to ensure that sensitive information is not released to the public.

In addition, electronic documents now make up the majority of documents that FOIA Officers must review; while electronically reviewing and redacting documents is in many ways easier and more convenient, the volume of electronic documents is expanding exponentially because of the little effort it takes to create them, especially emails. With the increasing amount of electronic documents that need to be reviewed and redacted, FOIA officials must double their efforts to ensure that documents are not duplicated and are properly redacted. FOIA requests themselves have also become broader, encompassing a wider range of issues, potential documents, and document custodians. Requests can often span many departments within an agency, causing an increase in the effort to track down all relevant documents.

Each of these problems causes FOIA professionals to be overburdened and underutilized. Culling through the multitude of potentially relevant documents for a request takes valuable time, increasing an agency’s backlog. By utilizing eDiscovery technology on a case management platform, agencies can greatly reduce the turnaround time for locating and releasing documents for FOIA requests enabling their FOIA professionals to spend less time on search and more time redacting and delivering documents.

Our solution, the Advanced Document Review (ADR) Module for FOIAXpress, helps agencies index documents during collection, de-duplicate documents and email threads, assign documents to reviewers, compare similar documents side-by-side, and build custom reports to analyze their document collection and review processes. The ADR module is an add-on that complements AINS full lifecycle FOIA request processing solution, FOIAXpress, for further ease in fulfilling each request. With the ADR module, agencies can increase their productivity in responding to FOIA requests and reduce their backlog, in turn becoming more compliant with the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy (DOJ OIP) FOIA Guidelines and Annual Reporting requirements.

FOIAXpress: ADR increases efficiency by providing powerful document review tools to filter out duplicate and non-responsive documents and emails. By reducing the volume of document sets while increasing relevance, FOIAXpress: ADR saves time and effort during redaction.