News digest

Here's some recent FoI stories that you might have missed:
  • NYC Set To Release Controversial Teacher Effectiveness Rankings - Huffington Post, 20 October 2010
    The New York City Department of Education is set to release individual rankings of 12,000 teachers. But the city's United Federation of Teachers is fighting back and plans to go to court to ensure the controversial documents, based on students' test scores, aren't released.

  • Information revolution opens door to secrets - Sydney Morning Herald, 21 October 2010
    Australians will be able to make freedom-of-information requests by e-mail and without charge from next month under changes set to revolutionise the 28-year-old law.

  • Police pay £78k bonus to officers - The Scotsman, 18 October 2010
    Performance-related payments of more than £78,000 were paid out to 17 senior officers in Lothian and Borders Police over the last year. A freedom of Information request showed that the 17 officers, including superintendents, detective superintendents, the assistant chief constable and the deputy chief constable, were paid £78,640 between them.

  • MoD papers reveal catalogue of nuclear safety failures - The Herald, 17 October 2010
    Potentially catastrophic lapses in nuclear weapons safety at the Clyde naval base have been exposed by secret Ministry of Defence reports released after a three-year freedom of information battle. The ministry released a series of reports on the eve of an appeal to the UK Information Tribunal that threatened to expose multiple breaches of freedom of information law.

  • Boy aged 3 who thinks he's a girl treated for identity disorder - Daily Mirror, 18 October 2010
    A boy of three who believes he is a girl has become the youngest child in Britain to be treated for the rare condition Gender Identity Disorder. Sufferers feel that they are in the body of the wrong sex. And the unnamed nursery schoolboy is currently being seen by experts with 20 other boys and three girls aged under 10, a Freedom of Information Request by the Mirror has found.
  • FSA loses 20 laptops in just three years - Citywire, 18 October 2010
    City watchdog, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), has lost 41 laptops and Blackberries containing secure document and emails, in the past three years. However, the scale of losses at the FSA is dwarfed by the Ministry of Defence, where 220 laptops were lost and 120 stolen in the past two years. And less than half of the lost MoD laptops were not encrypted, according to a Freedom of Information request. 

  • Federal Agents Urged to 'Friend' People on Social Networks - Fox News, 14 October 2010
    A privacy watchdog has uncovered a government memo that encourages federal agents to befriend people on a variety of social networks, to take advantage of their readiness to share -- and to spy on them. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Digg have not commented on the report, which details the official government program to spy via social networking. Other websites the government is spying on include Craigslist and Wikipedia, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which filed the FOIA request.

  • Met chief privately urges Theresa May to protect police from civilian lawsuits - Daily Telegraph, 10 October 2010
    Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson claims that money is being wasted fighting speculative law suits by civilians alleging brutality or wrongful arrest. He also urged the Home Secretary to load higher costs onto officers and other staff suing police forces at employment tribunals over claims of discrimination or unfair treatment. He added that members of the public should be charged a fee for making Freedom of Information requests, which he said were burdening police forces with unmanageable levels of paperwork.

  • Campaigners offered free guide on Freedom of Information Act
    The NCVO has launched a guide on using the Freedom of Information Act as a campaigning tool. The guide cites five case studies from organisations that have successfully used the Act to further their cause and features the findings of a survey of 45 campaigning charities. These organisations were polled on their experiences of using the Act, how familiar they were with it, what benefits it could bring and the challenges involved in using it.

    The guide can be downloaded for free at the following URL:

  • Leeds Council: We spied in bins for five years - Daily Express, 5 October 2010
    A secret five-year study of rubbish bins and refuse habits was carried out by spies for one of Britain’s largest councils. Leeds City Council had hoped to keep taxpayers unaware of its clandestine checks until forced to admit what was going on under the Freedom of Information Act.

  • Report finds little FOIA improvement under Obama - Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 1 October 2010
    Despite pledges to bring a new level of transparency to the federal government, the Obama administration has not shown a marked change in how agencies handle Freedom of Information Act requests, according to a report released by the public interest group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

  • Supreme Court To Decide Whether Corporations Have Privacy Rights - Huffington Post, 29 September 2010
    The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case early next year that will impact whether corporations are able to prevent the government from publicly releasing documents that could expose their corporate misconduct. At the heart of the matter is whether or not a personal privacy exemption contained in a freedom of information law extends the same rights to corporations as it does to people.

  • Royal officials 'spent £96,000 on cleaning chandeliers' - Daily Telegraph, 27 September 2010
    Royal officials spent more than £1.5m of public money on cosmetic improvements such as cleaning chandeliers and refurbishing a staff canteen. A report in the Daily Mail said The Queen’s officials spent £96,000 on cleaning chandeliers and £14,000 on a curtain to protect wine bottles in the Buckingham Palace cellars. Refurbishing a staff canteen and games room cost £808,000 while turning a private cinema into a state function room was £458,000, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

  • Queen's Bid For Poverty Grant Slammed - Sky News, 24 September 2010
    The Queen has been criticised after a freedom of information request revealed she tried to use an anti-poverty grant to heat her palaces. A senior Royal aide wrote to the Government in 2004 asking whether Her Majesty would be eligible for a handout from a £60m energy-saving fund. He complained that the cost of keeping the Queen and her staff warm had doubled to £1m a year, and the £15m Government grant to maintain her palaces was inadequate. But the request to replace four combined heat and power (CHP) units at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle was turned down, according to documents obtained by The Independent under the the Freedom of Information Act.

    See also: Queen tried to use state poverty fund to heat Buckingham Palace - The Independent, 24 September 2010


Mr Cromwell said...

So the Queen tried to use the state poverty fund to heat Buckingham Palace. The £15m Government grant (i.e. public funds) she receives to maintain her palaces obviously isn't enough. I feel so sorry for the poor royal family, shivering in their cold little palaces and castles. Maybe it's time they were abolished?