Tuesday, November 24, 2009

SIC survey finds public confused over information rights

Scottish Information Commissioner
Press release 23 November 2009
Research published today by the Scottish Information Commissioner has revealed that, while the Scottish public's general awareness of freedom of information (FOI) remains high, their understanding of what the FOI right means in practice has decreased significantly. The research, which was conducted on behalf of the Commissioner by Progressive Scottish Opinion, reveals that while a general awareness of FOI stands at 76%, those understanding that FOI provides a legal right to access any information from public authorities, subject to certain exemptions, has dropped to 39% in 2009 (from 49% in 2008).

Commenting on the findings, the Scottish Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion said:

"It is surprising that understanding of freedom of information legislation has decreased. There have been many examples reported in the media of people and organisations using freedom of information legislation to access information, most recently in relation to MPs' expenses, and from this coverage we might expect understanding of FOI rights to be increasing. The finding of this research highlights the importance for Scottish public authorities, when responding to requests, to inform people of their FOI rights, and more generally to include clear information about FOI on their websites.

"With this in mind I have instituted a programme of Practice Assessments to ensure that Scottish public authorities are following good practice in terms of FOI."

Full press release here and research report here.

Reports from the Practice Assessments carried out to date are available from the Compliance & Enforcement pages of the SIC website.

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