freedom of information

Freedom of Information (FOI)

In the broadest sense, concept of requiring the freedom of information emerged as:
a) governments and other institutions began to collect and store detailed information about individuals and companies.
b) technologies to access, manipulate, distribute the information improved.
c) advocacy groups specializing in monitoring government activities formed.
d) mass media outlets fostered the public appetite for news

Given that information was being collected by public institutions, many citizens felt the public in general had a right to know what information was being collected and a right to access that information. In the era of mass communication, freedom of information became associated with the freedom of the press, and the freedom of speech as basic democratic rights.

In the late twentieth century, many national and regional governments passed Freedom of Information legislation to regulate how information could be accessed or withheld.

The flipside of the issue was a public concern about individual privacy, given the amounts of personal information (for example, medical records) that were being assembled and cross-referenced in public databases. Most citizens felt that their need for continuous monitoring of government activities should not be reciprocated by a government need to be continuously monitoring citizens. These concerns led to the creation of privacy legislation.

Beyond the narrowly defined issue of the freedom of government held information, the free flow of information, or lack thereof - has been linked to issues of social justice and economic inequality. Most economists believe that the free flow of information is essential to efficient financial markets, and most financial regulators have strict rules requiring public disclosure of significant information to prevent insider trading. The free flow of information for creative, economic or entertainment purposes is hotly contested in the legal realm of intellectual property.

right to privacy, rights, access to information, liberal democracy

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