DHS Launches eFOIA App
The Department of Homeland Security has launched a new mobile app in an effort to further simplify and enhance the process for submitting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The eFOIA app is the latest in a series of efforts that the DHS Privacy Office has taken to help modernize FOIA processes and improve the customer experience. In fact, this is the first FOIA mobile app in the entire Federal Government.
Using their mobile devices, requesters can now submit requests and check the status of existing requests anyplace, anytime.
Key features of the new eFOIA app allow users to:
- Submit a FOIA request to any DHS Component
- Check the status of FOIA requests
- Access all of the content on the FOIA website, including the FOIA Library
- Receive updates, changes to events–such as stakeholder meetings/conference calls held by the Department, and recently published documents
The app allows you to do a bunch of things that you could already do on the internet: It was already possible to learn how to make a FOIA request online using a simple form at DHS.gov or regulations.gov, check the status of a request, browse the DHS FOIA library or read about exemptions using a mobile web browser.
DHS has chosen to make a new mobile app instead of just simply making any of the current FOIA webpages responsive to the device accessing them. Additionally, the app has a challenging keyboard which makes inputting information difficult and does not retain records or information.
“The app’s permissions, at least on the Android store, state that it requires access to your approximate location,” said Adam Marshall, the Jack Nelson Legal Fellow at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Marshall works on the committee’s iFOIA request system.
“There is absolutely zero reason for the DHS to have access to the location of my phone, and I’m not going to install an app from the federal government that allows for that functionality. FOIA is designed to ensure that the public knows what the government is up to, not the other way around.”
For now, this looks like another diagnosis of “shiny app syndrome.” A government agency is spending taxpayer dollars on mobile apps instead of making websites mobile-friendly, investing in proactively disclosing the most frequently requested documents or employing more FOIA officers to handle the record-setting load.