Mission: To make Freedom of Information requests and the world of "hidden" public data accessible to a wider audience.
Background: The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a U.S. federal law that allows for the disclosure of government records upon request. But, as Max Galk, an entrepreneur and independent data journalist, learned from experience, making a Freedom of Information request is an often burdensome process. Believing that open access to government data and records is a good thing, Galk, with support from the Knight Foundation, created FOIA Mapper to provide access to valuable information sitting in offline government databases — documents, database schema, logs, and more — via a centralized catalog, searchable by topic. The goal, says Galk, is to transform FOIA from "a gigantic untapped resource that is inaccessible for anyone who doesn't have the time or patience to wade through reams of government records" into something that is useful to a wide audience.
Outstanding Web Features: Visitors to the FOIA Mapper site can search federal agency record systems by topic (e.g., environmental hazards, terrorist surveillance, nuclear weapons, etc.); any results returned will show whether the information is publicly available or, if access to the information requires a FOIA request, how to make that request. Visitors also can see who has filed a Freedom of Information request by searching FOIA logs; browse the catalog by department or agency and get agency-specific information, including contact information, how long that agency takes to process a typical request, the percentage of requests denied, and what others have requested from that agency. The site also provides a number of articles about the FOIA process, as well as general search information that many will find useful. In addition, Galk has provided a detailed FAQ page and made it easy for FOIA enthusiasts to get site updates via Twitter.