America’s Best Open FOIL Web Site: Oakland’s RecordTrac

February 18, 2014

In November, the city of Oakland and Code for America officially launched a web site called RecordTrac. This one-stop portal for Freedom of Information Law requests (called Public Records Requests in California, but FOIL requests in New York) gives Californians the ability request records from any city agency in just moments.Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 5.59.01 PM

Many agency web sites in California, New York State, and beyond already allow users to file FOIL requests online. The difference is that most of these web sites are completely decentralized, i.e. there is no one place to go to find records of all kinds. When Mayor de Blasio released his FOIL report in April 22, 2013, he found that nearly half of all city agency web sites had no information about where to send FOIL requests. By centralizing the FOIL request process, Oakland eliminates this problem.

Further, RecordTrac allows users to track the status of their FOIL request from start to finish (like tracking a package through FedEx or UPS), and for records access officers to communicate and clarify the request with the person seeking records. When the request is completed, the records are posted online for the requester to download instantly. Even better, Oakland displays statistics on the number of FOIL requests received per agency, and the average time for responding to each request.

This is Oakland’s first shot at a centralized FOIL web portal, and we think they’ve hit it out of the park already. As Oakland continues to develop RecordTrac, we look forward to seeing them continue to innovate.