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Freedom of Information - consideration for web site designers

The Freedom of Information Act in the UK has proven very useful in some of the things I've been doing with regard to public transport services in Wiltshire - though more in an analysis after the even of what happened rather than in a more positive, forward looking way. But there's another side to the coin too.

If you're working in the public sector and designing electronic media, you should be aware of whether material contributed to something like an internal notebook / chatroom in your department may be revealed under FOI. That's yet a further consideration that web site designers and administrators need to consider on top of copyright, libel, decency, disability and other forms of discrimination, incitement, advertising and so on beyond the AUP (Acceptable User Policy) of what's posted.

As a web developer, are you effected by the admin matters? Yes - you are (or you should be, at least!). For you can provide tools and facilities in such a way that it makes sites using your software naturally easy to administer, or it makes them into a headache.

I understand [to the best of my knowledge - and I'm open to correction here] that if a chat room / forum within an office or department is non-permanent, with messages posted being automatically purged after a couple of weeks, then there's no question of there being a need to be able to produce the data months or years later under FOI. But if the data is left on the system for an indefinite period, then even the tittle-tattle is FOI-able. Curiously, think just how many chat boards there are out there, with things like invite to Old Fred's leaving bash the year before last ... which are such a potential waste of someone's time when a quick automatic purge by the web site designer could have fixed them.

And here's a further thought. If I provide a set of training notes to public sector organization "X", then it might be possible for someone to ask for, and receive, a copy of those notes under an FOI request. That's an interesting one - and I believe it has been done in the USA where a government body (NASA) had to provide information on one of their FOI request equivalents, even though the material was clearly copyrighted. This is something I kinda need to give some further thought to!
(written 2010-03-20, updated 2010-10-08)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
A213 - Web Application Deployment - Commercial and Legal Aspects
  [4283] Can a legitimate forum post become illegal a year later? - (2014-07-11)
  [4234] Change to Libel and Defamation laws from 1st January 2014 - (2013-12-31)
  [3747] An easy way to comply with the new cookie law if your site is well designed - (2012-06-02)
  [3746] Google Analytics and the new UK Cookie law - (2012-06-02)
  [3745] Legal change - You need to obtain user consent if you use cookies on your website - (2012-06-01)
  [3168] Web Sites - Subject to Advertising Standards from 1st March - check your sites - (2011-02-13)
  [3104] Catering in Syracuse, the Saigon Cafe, stolen images and Christmas - (2010-12-25)
  [3016] The legal considerations of your web presence - revisited - (2010-10-26)
  [2592] Re-using our pictures - (2010-01-21)
  [2252] Leaping dog, Leaping horse, copyright of old masters - (2009-06-20)
  [2140] Beware - giving copyright away when you upload a picture - Dogs Trust - (2009-04-25)
  [1937] Getting hold of the wrong end of the stick - (2008-12-12)
  [1840] Validating Credit Card Numbers - (2008-10-14)
  [1747] Who is watching you? - (2008-08-10)
  [1506] Ongoing Image Copyright Issues, PHP and MySQL solutions - (2008-01-14)
  [1486] Does anyone understand Lithuanian? - (2007-12-27)
  [1485] Copyright and theft of images, bandwidth and members. - (2007-12-26)
  [1431] Getting the community on line - some basics - (2007-11-13)
  [1054] UK legal requirements for your commercial web site - (2007-01-27)
  [994] Training on Cascading Style Sheets - (2006-12-17)
  [876] Making pages clearer - easy Disability Discrimination Act Compliance - (2006-09-23)
  [795] Remember a site's non-technical issues too - (2006-07-07)
  [759] Watch your Google profile - (2006-06-13)
  [746] Domain Listing Center and Domain Registry of America - (2006-06-06)
  [532] Copyright - how much can I legally copy? - (2005-12-17)
  [322] More maps - (2005-05-23)
  [320] Ordnance Survey - using a 'Get a map' - (2005-05-22)
  [288] Colour blindness for web developers - (2005-04-22)
  [259] Responding to spam - (2005-03-27)
  [142] Colour for access - (2004-12-06)

G911 - Well House Consultants - Search Engine Optimisation
  [4121] Has your Twitter feed stopped working? Switching to their new API - (2013-06-23)
  [3670] Reading Google Analytics results, based on the relative populations of countries - (2012-03-24)
  [2748] Monitoring the success and traffic of your web site - (2010-05-01)
  [2562] Tuning the web site for sailing on through this year - (2010-01-03)
  [2552] Web site traffic - real users, or just noise? - (2009-12-26)
  [2428] Diluting History - (2009-09-27)
  [2330] Update - Automatic feeds to Twitter - (2009-08-09)
  [2324] What search terms FAIL to bring visitors to our site, when they should? - (2009-08-05)
  [2137] Reaching the right people with your web site - (2009-04-23)
  [2107] How to tweet automatically from a blog - (2009-03-28)
  [2106] Learning to Twitter / what is Twitter? - (2009-03-28)
  [2065] Static mirroring through HTTrack, wget and others - (2009-03-03)
  [2045] Does robots.txt actually work? - (2009-02-16)
  [2019] Baby Caleb and Fortune City in your web logs? - (2009-01-31)
  [2000] 2000th article - Remember the background and basics - (2009-01-18)
  [1984] Site24x7 prowls uninvited - (2009-01-10)
  [1982] Cooking bodies and URLs - (2009-01-08)
  [1971] Telling Google which country your business trades in - (2009-01-02)
  [1969] Search Engines. Getting the right pages seen. - (2009-01-01)
  [1793] Which country does a search engine think you are located in? - (2008-09-11)
  [1344] Catching up on indexing our resources - (2007-09-10)
  [1029] Our search engine placement is dropping. - (2007-01-11)
  [1015] Search engine placement - long term strategy and success - (2006-12-30)
  [427] The Melksham train - a button is pushed - (2005-08-28)
  [165] Implementing an effective site search engine - (2005-01-01)


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Can my dog eat potatoes? Doggie Dietary Research, and political sleaze!
Security considerations in programming - what do we teach?
A lovely spring afternoon
Freedom of Information - consideration for web site designers
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Adding extensions to PHP Open Source applications - callbacks
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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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