Freedom of information? A panel discussion on orderly and disorderly methods of information access and release, government secrecy and what needs to change

A panel discussion with Dr Philip Dorling, Tim Robinson and Stilgherrian.

ATP Innovations, Australian Technology Park, Redfern, Sydney.

Please note the date of this event has changed, it is now being held on Wednesday February 29, 5.30 for 6pm – 7.30pm

Admission $5. More information..

In a connected world where information sharing is easier and has more impact than ever before, is the current framework of FOI, information security, privacy and archives laws and practices delivering the information society needs in a timely & appropriate way? This panel discussion will be about:

  • assessing the effectiveness of current information access and security laws and methods – are they hopelessly broken?
  • the culture of secrecy and withholding by government agencies
  • how technology and activism offer those with the skills and motivation some alternative and very powerful ways to access and reveal information, and
  • what can be done to address the current state of things and move to better ways of making information available when and where it’s needed.

In recent years we have seen a move to reform FOI legislation in some Australian jurisdictions to promote proactive release of information by government. However some frequent users of FOI processes such as activists or journalists report that the free flow of information promised under these reforms is yet to materialise, and that practices such as heavy handed restriction to protect commercial interests often prevail over the public right to know. FOI officers working in government agencies struggle to balance the public interest in releasing information and complying with personal information protection or security restrictions. On the other hand, government archivists are obliged to defend 20 or 30 year blanket closure rules devised in the pre World Wide Web era of paper files and very different public views on acceptable levels of government secrecy.

This is the context for the spectacular releases of information belonging to corporations and governments by the activist movement Anonymous and its offshoots. What drives more radical methods of information release such as these? What is the connection if any with the state of the legitimate information economy? With more and more people having the skills and the motivation from political concerns to hack into corporate and government systems to release information they believe should be revealed, will FOI laws and practices become increasingly irrelevant? If so, what should replace these?

The panel

A former diplomat, political staffer and senior public servant, Dr Philip Dorling  served as National Affairs Correspondent for The Canberra Times from 2008 to 2010 and is now a contributing correspondent with The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.  Three times a Melbourne Press Club Quill award winner, Dr Dorling has written extensively on foreign policy, national security and intelligence issues, including reports that led to the resignation of former Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.  He obtained exclusive access to the WikiLeaks US Embassy cables relating to Australia.  He has extensive experience of Freedom of Information laws and processes – both as a FOI applicant and a senior FOI decision maker.

Tim Robinson is Manager, Archives and Records Management Services at the University of Sydney.  An archivist for 30-odd years, he has managed privacy and access to information legislation matters at the University since 1993.  He has chaired the NSW Right to Information/Privacy Practitioners Network since 2007.  Tim’s particular concern is the interdependence of recordkeeping, privacy and access to information.

Stilgherrian is a writer, broadcaster and consultant. He covers the intersection of technology, politics and the media for ZDNet Australia, Crikey, Technology Spectator, CSO Online, the ABC’s Drum Opinion, his own website and others. Having majored in computing science, used online services heavily since the mid-1980s, and worked as a network administrator, Stilgherrian is particularly interested in the big-picture issues of how new communication and collaboration technologies are changing the way we work, play, socialise and organise our world.

Chaired by Cassie Findlay, Recordkeeping Roundtable co-founder and digital archivist.

Following short talks from each of our speakers there will be an opportunity for discussion, so come ready to talk, ask questions, argue and generally have a rant.

More info

Where: ATP Innovations Seminar Room, National Innovation Centre, Australian Technology Park, Redfern (map and directions)
When: Wednesday February 29, 5.30 for 6.00pm – 7.30pm (*There will be drinks and snacks to sustain you til dinnertime, including some rather nice French wine)
Cost: $5 or, if you like the Roundtable and would like to become a supporter, a whopping $10. Cash on the night please.

With thanks to our sponsor ATP Innovations:

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About Cassie Findlay

Digital archivist and recordkeeping professional, co-founder of the Recordkeeping Roundtable. @CassPF on Twitter.
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8 Responses to Freedom of information? A panel discussion on orderly and disorderly methods of information access and release, government secrecy and what needs to change

  1. Pingback: Stilgherrian · Freedom of Information panel, orderly and disorderly

  2. Jasmine says:

    This sounds like a great discussion, I’m hoping that you will podcast the event for those of us unable to attend.

  3. Pingback: Freedom of information? discussion panel: podcasts | Recordkeeping Roundtable

  4. Pingback: Are mechanisms for information access that we have now supporting a just and functional society? If not, what else? | Recordkeeping Roundtable

  5. Pingback: Philip Dorling on leaks, whistleblowing, archives, access to information and the behaviour of governments | Recordkeeping Roundtable

  6. Pingback: Tim Robinson on privacy, FOI and recordkeeping | Recordkeeping Roundtable

  7. Pingback: Stilgherrian on information release; orderly and disorderly | Recordkeeping Roundtable

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