One of the great new tools included on FOIAOnline is a reports generator that allows users to slice and dice FOIA processing data from participating agencies by different time frames. Users can run reports on data beginning on October 1 (before the October 9 launch of FOIAOnline) to the current date. We decided to use the data to see if there is any evidence yet that FOIAOnline is either a) making it easier for the public to make requests, or b) participating agencies seem to be processing requests any faster since joining the system.
We did this by running reports for the one week period before the launch of FOIAOnline (October 1 – 7) and each of the three following one week periods through October 28 (October 8 – 14, October 15 – 21, and October 22 – 28). We used the number of requests received as an indicator of the relative easiness of making requests (on the theory that more people will make requests if it is easier to do so). The number of requests processed per week was used to gauge if the agency is processing requests any more efficiently.
Below we take a look at statistics for the Department of Commerce, and the Environmental Protection Agency:
The number of requests received dipped the first week Commerce began using the FOIAOnline system, but there is not a clear trend towards the public sending more or less FOIA requests to Commerce. Commerce seems to be processing requests more efficiently since the launch of the website.
At EPA, both the number of requests received since the launch of FOIAOnline, and the number of requests processed per week have dropped. As more data becomes available, we will be able to judge is this is a troubling trend.