Monday marked the launch of the much-anticipated FOIAonline, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) “portal” or “module” aimed at streamlining FOIA requests and administration across agencies. Developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Commerce Department, and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the new website offers a “multi-agency, shared-services solution” for FOIA requesters and uniform tool for FOIA administration. Users may now submit and track FOIA requests using the portal, search and download requests and response records, correspond with processing staff, and file appeals. In addition to EPA, Commerce, and NARA, two smaller agencies, the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Federal Labor Relations Authority, have begun using the system to process FOIA requests.
Perhaps the best feature of FOIAonline is its ability to allow requesters and non-requesters alike to search a database of released FOIA documents. Users may search across agencies for similar FOIA requests or browse all released documents on a search term. The system also provides a new reports feature in which users can run queries on FOIA backlogs, average processing times of requests, and a variety of other criteria. OpenTheGovernment.org has provided this neat infographic of the site’s features:
In previous discussions of the module, EPA, Commerce, and NARA noted that several other agencies were considering use of FOIAonline for their agencies’ requests, with the ultimate goal of directing all FOIA requests through the site. Remember, the content available on FOIAonline is only as good as the requests made. Users are encouraged to create an account to allow easy request tracking and can expect more information—and hopefully more agencies—on FOIAonline soon.