I guess there are two ways of looking at the habit of redacting information from documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. On one hand it’s a nuisance because you don’t get all the information you want, but on the other hand if bits of information weren’t redacted, you wouldn’t be getting any information at all because the whole document would have been blocked from release.
Either way, some good news today from the Information Commissioner’s office, which has released some new guidance on extracting information and redacting information. It’s guidance for FOI officers really, not journalists, but it could prove very handy.
As we know, there’s a £450 cost cap on FOI requests to any organisation covered by FOI other than a government department. And while that guidance states that the time spent extracting information from a document can count towards the £450 limit, the cost of redacting information – ie blocking out in black the bits which can’t be released – can’t be.
That’s good news for journalists in my book – any admin which can’t be charged for surely makes it more likely we’ll get the information we ask for.
As for the FOI officer who redacted the signature of an MP but kept in ‘from the office of Andrew Turner’ on a letter regarding Digital Britain in which Peter Mandelson is called Herr Dictator Mandelweasel, perhaps it’s worth remembering that if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly!