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Website reviews

1 November 02

Reviews of websites dealing with freedom of information and data protection

by Derek O’Carroll

www.dataprotection.gov.uk

The Information Commissioner is now responsible for both data protection legislation and freedom of information legislation. This site is probably the best place to start research on either topic. The site is large and includes a wealth of information on such issues. There are sections on news, training, information about the Commissioner and her role and a limited range of links to other sites. It is now possible to notify online in the public register of data controllers as well as search the register. The most useful part of the site is the Commission’s publications and guidance section, which contains lots of material on data protection matters going back several years. There is a page about the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (which applies to England and Wales) which provides material about implementation of that Act. Unfortunately, the site is not updated very often: a consequence perhaps of the Commission’s very heavy workload and insufficient resources.

Subjective Rating (where 5 is excellent and 1 is poor and no rating indicate that that category has not been assessed)

Usefulness 4/5

Site design 3/5

Updating frequency 1/5

www.lcd.uk/foi/foidpunit.htm

Last year, the Lord Chancellor’s Department took over responsibility for FoI and data protection from the Home Office. This site, modest in scale but useful nonetheless, is the home page of the FoI. The reader gets access to the Act itself, reports on implementation of the Act, background information on the Act, Codes of Practice, a list of all secondary legislation made under the Act and links to that legislation. The guidance to government and NDPB bodies on publication schemes is also there together with an archive for those who really want information overload. The equivalent page for data protection is at www.lcd.gov.uk/foi/datprot.htm 

Usefulness 3/5

Site design 3/5

Updating frequency 3/5

www.freedominfo.org

I cannot do better than to quote the editor’s introduction to this fairly new site: “This site is a one-stop portal that describes best practices, consolidates lessons learned, explains campaign strategies and tactics, and links the efforts of freedom of information advocates around the world. It contains crucial information on freedom of information laws and how they were drafted and implemented, including how various provisions have worked in practice.freedominfo.org is a virtual network that links these movements as they struggle for greater openness. It is the online institutional memory of freedom of information campaigns throughout the world”. The site contains lots of links to other information law sites as well as several lengthy articles on FoI law in different countries and updates on implementation of FoI throughout the world. There are lots of useful links to related sites, especially non-UK sites. Provides a refreshing contrast to the official sites.

Usefulness 3/5

Site design 3/5

Updating frequency 3/5

www.cfoi.org.uk/scotland.html

This is the site of the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland. In truth, it consists simply of one long page. But that page is packed full of vital material on the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, the Scottish version of the 2000 Act. The Campaign has been very active and as one would expect, the site contains all the Campaign’s briefing material produced during and after the passage of the Bill. In addition, there is a very clear list of links to all the official material relating to the Bill such as parliamentary debates, lists of amendments, official reports etc. Go to www.cfoi.org.uk for the equivalent for the English legislation, which site has lots more material and more links.

Usefulness 4/5

Site design 2/5

Updating frequency 2/5

http://pages.britishlibrary.net/rwong/index.htm

This site is an example of one of the joys of the web: a one person site (maintained in this case by Rebecca Wong) focusing on an particular issue (here being data protection) where for no apparent reason (other than enthusiasm and interest perhaps) loads of free material is provided, much of which would be difficult to track down any other way. So in this site, there is a small list of links to official sites on DP issues, a huge list of links to a variety of unofficial sites (some being rather better than others…), some very interesting links to sites about genetic privacy, a list of online and papers journals on information and privacy issues as well as various web discussion sites and email alert services. For the paranoid among you (or perhaps, rather, the well-informed) there are links to information and products designed to keep you, your computer and your surfing safe from prying technology. 

Usefulness 4/5

Site design 4/5

Updating frequency 4/5