A search tool was added Wednesday to the federal government’s website for Freedom of Information Act requests, a move intended to ease public efforts in finding commonly requested information.
The update to FOIA.gov — one of the most notable upgrades to the site since the 2018 release of the National FOIA Portal — checks an important box for the Department of Justice in its ongoing efforts to meet pledges in the Fifth U.S. Open Government National Action Plan.
Per a news release from the DOJ’s Office of Information Policy, the search functionality on FOIA.gov allows users to easily and quickly find publicly available information, and connect them to the proper federal agency depending on the request.
OIP noted that the website’s search tool is organized by the six most common topics of FOIA requests: immigration or travel records; tax records; social security records; medical records; personnel records; and military records. Users can enter their own search terms or begin their searches by navigating to one of those six topics and selecting answers from a series of questions.
The search tool is powered by a combination of machine learning and logic, pointing users toward relevant documents that are public or guidance on where to request specific information.
Previous FedScoop reporting found that several federal agencies were behind the eightball on achieving interoperability with FOIA.gov, with some battling ongoing technical and logistical challenges.
OIP said in its release that launching the new search tool is part of “phase one of a multi-phase project” in DOJ’s push to make the FOIA request process “more efficient and user-friendly.”