FOIA Request Topics and Trends for 2019

Now that we’ve entered the new year, it’s a good time for government agencies to anticipate the types of FOIA requests they might receive throughout 2019 as well as the trends that may arise from those types of requests.

According to Legaltech News, the three main FOIA request trends to expect are those that scrutinize the business conduct of public officials and government agencies, an increased volume of FOIA requests contributing to slower response times, and many FOIA requests specifically addressing privacy and cybersecurity issues.

It is safe to assume that most if not all FOIA requesters will be looking very closely at how agencies handle their responses. Recent opinions by the U.S. District Court, such as the October 12th Memorandum Opinion, address agencies making a “good faith effort” to provide as much of the information requested as possible, beyond simply meeting the key terms requesters use in their searches. This is especially possible with such advancements as clustering currently being made to machine learning technology. You can learn more in our most recent blog post, “Machine Learning and FOIA Requests.”

With the high demand for information by U.S. citizens, as well as the ongoing government shutdown, it is inevitable for agencies to experience backlog when responding to requests. However, agencies are recommended to prioritize using their best efforts to create a fully in-depth response over simply issuing a quick response. While requests will undoubtedly continue to accumulate, those that are answered as completely as possible will be beneficial to both requesters and agencies in the long term.

Considering the threat hackers continue to pose over our data, agencies can expect to receive a number of requests concerning privacy and cybersecurity issues. While Congress will focus on implementing new federal regulation to protect U.S. citizens and organizations in 2019, Legaltech News reports that “many citizens have a greater awareness of best practices for privacy and cybersecurity from the education provided by consumer technology companies.” This public awareness and education, in conjunction with the “heightened trainings and tools offered in corporate work environments,” may be the most efficient way of maintaining the privacy of our data until further legal action can be taken.

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