Friday, February 09, 2007

Not That Open

Bill Hobbs provides a valuable public service by persistently arguing in favor of open government, but, in discussing the proposal by Governor Phil Bredeson to create an ombudsman position to assist with public records requests, he takes a step too far in this statement:

But I also look forward to the day when the ombudsman is no longer needed because government at all levels simply routinely posts all documents online to an indexed, searchable public database.

The difficulty here is that a large number of government documents contain information that is legitimately outside the scope of a public records request. The Oracle, himself, has engaged in the painful process of sifting through proprietary information and offering rationales as to why some documents included in a filing should not be accessible should a citizen request it. Decisions on these types of documents have to be managed by human beings. Because of legitimate concerns about the confidentiality of some types of personal and business information, the process will never be quite as open as Hobbs envisions.

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