Irish Government Moves Into The Digital Age By Treating Everything Like Paper

from the progress,-eh?-not-sure-I'm-familiar-with-that-term... dept

Updating laws for the digital age is hard. Apparently. Maybe it's just a government problem. After all, an entity that generally moves at the speed of a narcoleptic sloth and with the grace of an ocean liner can't be expected to turn on a dime and start bureaucratizing like it's 1999.

The Irish government is currently in the process of updating its Freedom of Information laws, and from the looks of what's surfaced so far, it's attempting to legislate itself back to the mid-1970s.

Section 17 (4) (b) in particular contains the following restriction on how much freedom you can expect your information to have.

"[T]he FOI body shall take reasonable steps to search for and extract the records to which the request relates, having due regard to the steps that would be considered reasonable if the records were held in paper format..."

This then is the yardstick by which ‘reasonable’ action shall be based. You only have to do it if it was reasonable if everything was printed out and you had only paper to work with.

Query a database? Sure, it might only take a moment to use the search box. But if I had to print it all out and go through it by hand, that would be an unreasonable demand. So, no.
It's almost as though someone caught the government inadvertently dragging itself into the digital age and ordered the Efficiency Committee to take a long look at the bill's wording and see if there wasn't some excess efficiency that couldn't be streamlined out.

If this bill passes, FOI requests in Ireland will be treated as if the government is putting its best men (and women) on it, even if it's really just a bored intern running some surface-level searches. Sure, Ted the lazy but relatively competent, unpaid intern may be able to access the appropriate documents and spit them out of the nearest laser printer in 5-10 minutes, but in doing so, has completely undercut the nearly-universal governmental tendency to add extra steps to processes and racking up amazing amounts of man-hours/woman-hours.

The Irish government is rooted in years of tradition ("rooted" being the key) -- as it always was, so shall it always be. This purity will be maintained even if it means carving out alternate realities with creative legislation.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2013 @ 11:21pm

    I guess it would be too hard to set an internet database up for people to use freely.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2013 @ 11:32pm

    the more I think about it. I'm not sure if this is accurate but if by chance the word digital is derived from the word digit then haven't we always been in the digital age?

     

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  3.  
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    CK20XX, Aug 20th, 2013 @ 12:08am

    Re:

    Only technically, not in spirit. No one in power ever expected the internet to become as powerful as it has. It's like it changed all the rules when no one was looking, and a lot of people are still struggling to catch up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2013 @ 1:43am

    The Irish are easy stereotypes to ridicule, let's not fall into that trap.

    'nuff said

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2013 @ 3:21am

    But who said that treating digital like paper was a fault?

    Right about now, I'm betting the US wished this policy was in place so they had a valid reason to say "no" we can't produce that information for a FOI request.

     

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  6.  
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    Ninja (profile), Aug 20th, 2013 @ 3:44am

    According to the MAFIAA accounting practices digitally printing (???) any document would deprive grocery stores of their income. So the Irish government is right, we should think of all those e-trees.

    What am I saying?

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2013 @ 6:00am

    They should then also limit what they may collect on anyone to something that a regular human could reasonably print.

    Enough of that twisted one-sided logic meant solely to deprive people of their rights.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    any moose cow word, Aug 20th, 2013 @ 10:51am

    If I were that intern, I would just use the search box, gleam a few relevant items, then tell my boss that the "paper" search took all day while I really sat around playing Halo. Being a slacker doesn't mean you don't work at all, just that you work smarter than everyone else.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2013 @ 1:06pm

    The outrage machine reads the language in question as "only produce stuff if it would have been reasonable to produce it were it on paper". Could the language really be intended to prevent agencies from saying "it's too complicated and expensive to answer that request because the info is held in a computer" for info that would be easily available were it held on paper?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Aug 20th, 2013 @ 9:37pm

    Re:

    Could the language really be intended to prevent agencies from saying "it's too complicated and expensive to answer that request because the info is held in a computer" for info that would be easily available were it held on paper?

    Possibly. But I don't see how that would make it any less stupid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Claire Ryan, Aug 21st, 2013 @ 10:28am

    Re:

    Irish person here. No, the point of this is to stop Irish journalists and whatnot from getting too much information. It's effectively a get-out clause for the government if they don't want to reveal something - 'sorry, not reasonable, we can't give you that info.'

    There's one particular journalist by the name of Gavin Sheridan who's been making a lot of FOIA requests to get anything out of the government, and the number of bullshit excuses they use to get out of it is staggering. So this looks like just another they can use if needed.

    Seriously, I don't think you realise just how completely fucked up the Irish government is... if someone told me tomorrow that they'd decided to only accept requests by carrier pigeon, I'd believe it. And the very idea that they'd do something that isn't completely self-serving and tainted by cronyism or flat-out incompetence is ridiculous to me at this point.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Sheogorath (profile), Aug 21st, 2013 @ 8:38pm

    Question

    If the Irish government are allowed to treat digital FOI request fulfilments as if they're physical ones, does that mean I'm entitled to consider an ebook purchased just as if I'd stood in a queue at Waterstone's for it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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