Re: Freedom of information and metadata

From: Brian Selzer <>
Date: Wed, 14 May 2008 10:19:40 -0400
Message-ID: <2yCWj.1378$>

"Ed Prochak" <> wrote in message
> On May 14, 7:35 am, "Brian Selzer" <> wrote:
>> "Dr Quite Evil" <> wrote in
>> messagenews:Xns9A9E6E4506418evil_at_85.214.90.236...
>> > It would be interesting to hear your comments and opinions on the
>> > following.
>> > Essentially, I'm struggling with the problem that when we want to get
>> > information out of the government, it can be difficult because we don't
>> > know if the information exists or if it's in the right format.
>> > My tentative solution is to turn the idea of having a database full of
>> > information on its head. Instead, we would have a database describing
>> > information we don't have but would like to have.
>> > The problem is that there seems to be a distinct obstacle to holding
>> > governments accountable using Freedom of Information requests.
> []
>> > But thinking of information in terms of "documents" seems
>> > old-fashioned.
>> > For example this newsgroup message could be regarded as a document, but
>> > it would be better to treat it as content (the words I'm writing), and
>> > metadata (extra information such as the date I wrote it, the message
>> > ID,
>> > the newsgroups line, and so on).
> The term meta data already has a meaning. You are using it somewhat
> incorrectly here. The meta data are the field descriptions, so
> the date you wrote the message is still data, the posting data field
> would describe the meta data.
>> > Nowadays, I think all information can be treated as having these two
>> > parts - content and metadata. The content is what us humans are
>> > interested in and the metadata allows it to be organised and found.
> []
>> Unfortunately, freedom isn't free, but the result of blood, sweat and
>> tears.
> yes and must be defended regularly. Hence my post.
>> Liberal elitists seem quite willing to spend it, provided it isn't their
>> own.
> Conservative elitists seem quite willing to spend it as well. (The
> current US administration at least claims to be conservative.)
>> I shouldn't have to pay more tax so that a journalist aligned with
>> one
>> political entity will have an easier time digging up juicy dirt on
>> another.
> Interesting argument. You say freedom is bought with blood, sweat and
> tears, but you are unwilling to spend money on it.

That is not my argument. I am willing to spend money to ensure transparency between the various branches of government. I am not willing to spend money on fishing expeditions initiated by a political entity, such as a political party or its lackies.

> A free Press has been described as the fourth branch of US government.

The Press here in the US is not free. It is controlled for the most part by a small cabal of liberal elitists, and as such has become the propaganda arm of the major political party that they are most closely aligned with. It is not a branch of the government, nor should it ever be considered one.

> Somebody has got to "police the police".

That's why here in the US we have separate Legislative and Executive branches of government--with the Executive branch being the weakest.

> []
>> materials and manpower required to meet the request. In the same way, if
>> a
>> government entity has to hire a batallion of clerks in order to satisfy
>> freedom of information requests, then the cost of those clerks should be
>> passed on to the requesters--not to the taxpayers. Again: I shouldn't
>> have
>> to pay more tax to make it easier for one political entity to dig up dirt
>> on
>> another. They should like everyone else have to pay their own way. I'm
>> not
>> arguing against transparency: reporting that is required for oversight is
>> necessary and should already be in place. Certainly that information
>> could
>> and probably should be made available to the public--subject to national
>> security and privacy concerns, of course.
> Another interesting argument. It could be summarized as: government
> bureaucracy is bloated due to excessive Freedom of Information
> requests. Governments are naturally inefficient. I would hazard a
> guess that FOI requests over the last 10years have cost the US
> government less than 1 day of expenses in Iraq (just merely making a
> comparison, not trying to start an Iraq flame fest).

Your comparison is misplaced: the primary function of a government is to guarantee the safety and security of its citizens. A better comparison is the Bridge to Nowhere: I shouldn't have to pay for that bridge any more than I should have to pay for a political entity's fishing expedition.

> To bring the discussion back to Dr Evil's question:
> I think you are seeking a technological solution to a political
> problem. Information will always be hard to extract from governments
> (and from some harder than from others).
> Have a good day both of you.
> Ed
Received on Wed May 14 2008 - 16:19:40 CEST

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