Is there a public right to access proprietary information where the government uses public funds to purchase the information and relies on that information in its decision-making process? Specifically, can non-commercial researchers access proprietary information collected by media data companies that the FCC uses in its policy rulemakings?
There is a general, stated policy in favor of broad disclosure and access of information that the government relies on. This policy, however, is constrained by statutes with limited reach as well as statutory exceptions and policy limitations.
In this research note, I describe and discuss four legislative and regulatory mechanisms for access – The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Shelby Amendment, the Data Quality Act (DQA) and OMB Peer Review. I have also identified targeted filing, rule changes and coalition building as additional means of furthering public goals of access to data. While none of the identified means provide complete, unfettered access to information, the current state of the law provides the identified mechanisms that can be better and more creatively utilized to enhance the public’s right to information—especially in an era of widespread privatization of formerly public data collection functions.
Text available via SSRC
- Social Science Research Council. New York, , New York, US