TX FOIA: Here's your data. It's encoded. No key for you. Buh bye.
April 3, 2014 5:02 AM Subscribe
How likely is it that responding to a request for public records with data that has been encoded and explicitly refusing to share or even discuss the key and/or algorithm required to decode it satisfies Texas Freedom of Information Act regulations?
posted by syzygy to Law & Government (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am trying to access some public records collected and maintained by a Texas county. The relevant county office has told me that they'll provide the data to me, but parts of it (the most important parts, for me) are encoded in a proprietary format. The county actively, openly and explicitly refuses to discuss
the algorithms used to encode this data or ways to decode it on the grounds that it's too complex!
This seems like a total farce to me. They've explicitly said (paraphrased):
We're providing the encoded data for the sake of completeness, but the algorithm used to generate the data is very complex. If you are able to decode and make use of the data on your own, feel free to do so, but do NOT contact us for information on decoding it.
What? It seems to me that if this is allowable, any agency could easily make a mockery of FOIA requirements by simply encoding all data into a secret, proprietary format before delivering it to external requesters. What say ye, Mefi?
Also: How would I go about challenging this (apparently, to me) ridiculous restriction? Do I need to lawyer up?