Freedom of Information: Sunshine in the digital age

Digital sunshine: How technology can vastly improve public access to government -- our Freedom of Information issue

Public records used to be dusty old documents, stuck in dog-eared files or bound in aging folders. They were held in back rooms or the basements of city halls, available during government hours — and often, only by written request.

These days, a lot of that information is stored on hard drives and servers. That can make it harder to access and easier to hide — or it can give the public vast new access. That's what this year's Freedom of Information issue — our 22nd — is all about.

On one front, the advocates of secrecy are pushing hard to keep electronic data under strict controls. The state Legislature is considering a bill that would prohibit the release of electronic data embedded in a public record. The county of Santa Clara tried to set a $100,000 price on access to a public database.

But on the other hand, sunshine advocates are pushing for ways to use the same technology to make government more open. We've been in the forefront of sunshine battles for more than two decades; this is just the next step. (Tim Redmond)

>>2007 James Madison Award winners
Society of Professional Journalists Northern California announces First Amendment award winners

>>A citizen's guide to fighting secret government
Local and national organizations that offer a wide range of resources for journalists, citizen activists, and hell-raisers

>>More sunshine -- easily and at no cost
Technology can allow the city to take a huge step forward in public access -- right now
By Kimo Crossman

>>Battleship metadata
Legislation on mapping software would create an expensive new category of public records
By Sarah Phelan

>>Virtual meeting
Open government laws prohibit online official discussions, but they've happened anyway
By Bryan Cohen

>>The leaks go on
A federal court judge says prior Wikileaks ruling was unconstitutional
By Megan Ma

>>Sunshine experiment in Palo Alto
Posting e-mails from council members on the city's Web site
By Emma Lierley