Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information (FoI) is a principle that allows people to access government information. It increases transparency and accountability.

Various countries around the world have freedom of information laws. The US Freedom of Information Act (1966) is, arguably, the most famous. FoI requests can be filed to access statistics, records, and documents produced or held by public authorities. This could be, for example: the reasons that have been issued by EU member states to invoke Article 29 of the Schengen Borders Code and temporarily re-introduce permanent border checks.

FoI as a method of accessing public information has been widely used by journalists for many years. Recently the scholarly community has also incorporated it as a method of data collection to challenge government secrecy. FoI requests require preparation. You need to understand the procedures, know which information is already out there and make sure to clearly formulate your request. This will help you to know exactly which data you need to request.

As the saying goes, light is the best disinfectant. However, practices of obfuscation and concealment prevail. Be prepared to handle rejections and delays. Even if your request is granted, the available data might be unreadable or not provided in a format that allows you to directly work with it. Discovering which public authorities prefer to operate in the dark is in itself an interesting research result.

Tip: Specific requests are easier to answer. Do not forget to specify the time frame in which you expect a response.