Freedom of Information and Knowledge Assets

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An increasingly important consideration in managing knowledge assets is the role of government. While laws and regulations can govern how knowledge is developed and protected, government can also be an unrecognized partner in a knowledge system. More and more organizational knowledge, and by extension data on individual consumers, is finding its way into governmental hands. Whether collected as part of an agency mission (e.g. census), as a regulatory matter (e.g. Food and Drug Administration), or as a purchase (marketing database), governments in many countries and at all levels are increasingly attached to knowledge management systems. Given that such knowledge assets may be proprietary and/or subject to privacy promises, government's vulnerability to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) claims can be a matter of concern for some organizations. In the US, attitude and practice regarding the act has varied over time and can also vary markedly by agency and jurisdiction. Perhaps most disconcerting, we know very little about FOIA outcomes. This paper reports on data gathered from the FOIA annual reports of departments at the federal level in the United States. Data are readily available on FOIA requests processed, approved, and denied. Further, data laying out the reasons for denial, administrative or by exemption are also available. By gathering and analyzing such data, we are able to establish a benchmark of FOIA practice and provide some guidance to organizations concerned about providing sensitive data to government agencies.

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Proceedings of the European Conference on Knowledge Management, ECKM

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