How to get data released in electronic form

A lot of people who make FOI requests like to get the data in electronic form and I include myself in that.

Often public authorities are reluctant to provide the information in electronic form perhaps because they would rather it was not republished or perhaps because it is a bit more work (in the short-term). Requesters often quote section 11 of the Act:

“Where, on making his request for information, the applicant expresses a preference for communication by any one or more of the following means, namely—…the provision to the applicant of a copy of the information in permanent form or in another form acceptable to the applicant,…the public authority shall so far as reasonably practicable give effect to that preference.”

These leaves open the possibility of the public authority arguing that it is not reasonably practicable.

I actually think that it is better to only provide an email address and refuse to provide a postal address. You may need to remind the public authority that you have submitted a valid request for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act and that they have a duty under Section 1 to supply you with the information requested. This leaves them with no real option but to reply electronically.

Martin Rosenbaum wrote recently published Devolution tensions exposed on the BBC Open Secrets blog:

“I asked the Scotland Office for this material after the commissioner’s judgment was announced. They only agreed to send me hard copies, but someone else has managed to get them to post electronic versions at the FOI site What Do They Know.”

The link was to a response from the Scotland Office I had received where I had simply refused to provide a postal address.

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