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Politics & Government

Getting Information from the Government: Utica College Professor Authors Book on FOIL in NY State

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What can Central New Yorkers learn about issues involving the environment?  Or economic development projects?  Author and Utica College Professor Brett Orzechowski will answer those questions Wednesday when he speaks at Syracuse University about his book, “FOIL: The law and the Future of Public Information.”  For 40 years, state residents have been using the Freedom of information Law to access government information.  Orzechowski says people can use this open data to shine light on governmental issues.

“A lot of people who are working with data realize a lot of potential, especially with environmental issues, health issues, public transportation issues, and overall economic health and some of the overall data sets that you see on the open data portal are just the surface of what’s out there. There’s a lot of people in New York State who want more data.”

Orzechowski says all of this information can typically be accessed upon request.  But he says the constant change in technology can make it challenging to access.

“The definition of public record is very wide in terms of interpretation. If there was section of foil that may strengthen that, it would be data specific, but 10 years from now how are we going to define data. I think that’s going to be a larger question because technology is definitely moving faster than legislation right now.”

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Brett Orzechowski is the author of book on FOIL .

Orzechowski says this includes finding a way to make body cam footage and old files available.  Ideally, he’d like to see governments make more information available without a request. 

I would advocate for more proactive disclosure and more open data mandates going forward and by that I mean larger percentage of open data pushed state agents and actually engage the public in larger discussion about how to use this data to find solutions."

Orzechowski will speak Wednesday at 5 p.m. on the 4th floor of Newhouse Three.