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FOI officer questions

I just got here from bottom of an FOI request, what is going on? #

Right to Know is a service run by a charity. It helps ordinary members of the public make FOI requests, and easily track and share the responses.

The FOI request you received was made by someone using Right to Know. You can simply reply to the request as you would any other request from an individual. The only difference is that your response will be automatically published on the Internet.

If you have privacy or other concerns, please read the answers below. You might also like to read the introduction to Right to Know to find out more about what the site does from the point of view of someone requesting information. You can also search the site to find the authority that you work for, and view the status of any requests made using the site.

Finally, we welcome comments and thoughts from FOI officers, please get in touch.

Why are you publishing responses to FOI requests? #
We think there are lots of benefits. Most importantly it will encourage the public to be more interested and involved in the work of government. We also hope that it will reduce the number of duplicate requests on any subject that a public authority will receive. Given that Freedom of Information responses contain public information, which anybody could easily request again from the public authority, we think there should be no reason not to publish it widely.
Why should I not send PDF documents in FOI responses? #
The Australian Government Webguide makes it very clear that PDF is not an acceptable format for you to use in the delivery of government information:
PDF does not yet have approved Sufficient Techniques to claim WCAG 2.0 conformance, so it cannot be ‘relied upon’ in the provision of government information.
Write a response in an email as plain text. This is not only a simple and efficient way for you to conform to government guidelines, it is easier and quicker for the recipient to read.
Are the people making requests real people? #
Yes. For the purposes of keeping track of responses we use computer-generated email addresses for each request. However, before they can send a request, each user must register on the site with a unique email address that we then verify. You can search this site and find a page listing all requests that each person has made.
Aren't you making lots of vexatious requests? #

Right to Know is not making any requests. We are sending requests on behalf of our users, who are real people making the requests.

Look at it like this - if lots of different people made requests from different Hotmail email addresses, then you would not think that Microsoft were making vexatious requests. It is exactly the same if lots of requests are made via Right to Know. Moreover, since all requests are public it is much easier for you to see if one of our users is making vexatious requests.

I can see a request on Right to Know, but we never got it by email! #

If a request appears on the site, then we have attempted to send it to the authority by email. Any delivery failure messages will automatically appear on the site. You can check the address we're using with the "View FOI email address" link which appears on the page for the authority. Contact us if there is a better address we can use.

Requests are sometimes not delivered because they are quietly removed by "spam filters" in the IT department of the authority. Authorities can make sure this doesn't happen by asking their IT departments to "whitelist" any email from If you ask us we will resend any request, and/or give technical details of delivery so an IT department can chase up what happened to the message.

Finally, you can respond to any request from your web browser, without needing any email, using the "respond to request" link at the bottom of each request page.

How do you calculate the deadline shown on request pages? #

The law says that the authority must respond as soon as practicable. It also specifies that the authority must have responded within a maximum number of days, which is what we use for the calculation shown on the request page.

The number of days varies depending on which jurisdiction governs the authority and we try to be as generous as possible in our calculation of the timeframe.

How can I send a large file, which won't go by email? #
Instead of email, you can respond to a request directly from your web browser, including uploading a file. To do this, choose "respond to request" at the bottom of the request's page. Contact us if it is too big for even that (more than, say, 50Mb).
Why do you publish the names of public servants and the text of emails? #
We consider what officers or servants do in the course of their employment to be public information. We will only remove content in exceptional circumstances, see our take down policy.
Do you publish email addresses or mobile phone numbers? #

To prevent spam, we automatically remove most emails and some mobile numbers from responses to requests. Please contact us if we've missed one. For technical reasons we don't always remove them from attachments, such as certain PDFs.

If you need to know what an address was that we've removed, please get in touch with us. Occasionally, an email address forms an important part of a response and we will post it up in an obscured form in an annotation.

Our Freedom of Information law is "applicant blind", so anyone in the world can request the same document and get a copy of it. If you think our making a document available on the internet infringes your copyright, you may contact us and ask us to take it down. However, to save tax payers' money by preventing duplicate requests, and for good public relations, we'd advise you not to do that.

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