Record Level FOIA Requests – Can AI Solve The Problem?2. August 2023
Record Level FOIA Requests – Can AI Solve The Problem?
Some U.S. government agencies, including the CDC and the Departments of Justice and State, are testing AI models to process a record-breaking number of FOIA requests.
The Freedom of Information Act, passed in 1967, requires federal agencies to release most documents and government information to citizens. To handle the caseload, agencies have tried or are testing machine learning models and algorithms, including a prototype AI called “FOIA Assistant” to search through billions of government records.
For example, the State Department is testing two AI models, including one that uses machine learning algorithms to search its centralized databases and archives of over 3 billion records.
Jason R. Baron, a professor at the University of Maryland and an expert on AI in government access, said the problem is “just unsolvable without AI.” However, transparency advocates such as Adam Marshall of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press raise concerns about the lack of disclosure of AI tools and the risk of over-reliance.
In fiscal 2022, FOIA applications hit a record 928,353, resulting in significant backlogs with nearly 207,000 applications still pending.