As we approach the holidays, I would like to thank all the readers who joined us in 2019. I hope everyone is feeling prepared and is ready to enjoy some well-deserved time off with family and friends.
With this being the first full year the FOI Assist website has been operating, I thought it would be appropriate to publish a top 10 list of the most popular articles on this site, based on which ones received the highest viewership in 2019.
Although articles tend to get a good audience in the week in they are released, generally, most viewership comes in the months after, when people go searching for answers to their FOI questions using Google, Bing or other search engines. Other readers head directly to the FOI Assist website and use the search feature to find what they are looking for. However people find them, there are definitely a few extremely popular posts that readers seem to keep coming back to, and likely forward to their colleagues as well.
I hope you enjoy this list — perhaps it will give you ideas for what to read next!
1. Exemptions vs. Exclusions: What is the difference?
I think many FOI professionals must have this one bookmarked in their web browser as it provides a handy list of every exemption and exclusion in both FIPPA and MFIPPA, while also explaining the difference between “exemptions” and “exclusions”, something that had always confused me until I looked into it for myself!
2. “I thought we deleted that!” Metadata and Hidden Data
Based on its popularity, this article appears to have reached an audience outside of the FOI community. Intended to clearly illustrate the risks involved with naively disclosing electronic versions of documents in response to an FOI request, this article provides a rigorous explanation of exactly what kinds of “hidden” information may be lurking inside your digital files.
3 .The FOI Request Process Poster
I am glad to see the FOI Request Process Poster gaining popularity in the FOI community! Intended for FOI professionals at provincial and municipal institutions in Ontario, this helpful poster sets out the entire process of answering an FOI request in an easy-to-follow diagram.
If anyone would like a full-size printed copy of this poster, I would be happy to send you one free of charge (within Canada) — just use this website’s contact form to request one, or you can leave a comment on this post.
4. How to count time and how to determine the initial 30-day deadline
One of the first articles on this site, it provides handy instructions for counting time efficiently and accurately under FIPPA and MFIPPA to help you ensureyour results are exactly correct, and not off by a day or two.
5. When is labour and employment information exempt from disclosure?
FOI requests for labour and employment information are all too common. This article is intended to help FOI professionals understand what exemptions and exclusions may apply.
6. Say what? Clarifying and narrowing requests
Important advice for all FOI professionals: Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or narrowing! What seems like “extra work” now can save you days, weeks or even months later on. This article also explains why, when seeking to narrow a request, it’s usually best to pick up the phone, whereas when clarifying, it is often better to rely on written correspondence.
7. When is an FOI request frivolous or vexatious?
Here’s a true statement you won’t see printed in the government’s FOI Manual: some FOI requests are annoying! However, that doesn’t automatically make them “frivolous or vexatious”. This article explains the origins of this term and how it applies to FOI requests under FIPPA and MFIPPA.
8. Verifying the Identity of the Requestor
When an FOI request is for the disclosure or correction of personal information, it can be important to verify that the person making the request is who they say they are, and that they have the authority to make the request. This article explains how.
9. A response to The Toronto Star (and to “FOI reform” articles in general)
I was pleasantly surprised to see this article become one of the more popular posts. Departing a bit from my usual articles on how to efficiently process and respond to FOI requests, this article is a rebuttal to the popular Canadian media position that FOI fees are too high. Here, I argue that the fees actually paid by requestors in Ontario come nowhere near paying for the true costs of our FOI programs; requestor fees are merely a “co-pay” and a large portion of the cost is borne by taxpayers.
10. The 2018-2019 Annotated Ontario Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Acts by David Goodis
In the spirit of identifying the best FOI resources for professionals in Ontario, this post announced the release of the 2018-2019 edition of the leading text on FIPPA and MFIPPA.
I hope you have been enjoying the FOI Assist website and I look forward to bringing you more exciting developments in 2020, including the release of the FOI Assist software itself.
All the best to you and your family in the year ahead!
December 18, 2019