Freedom of information is needed to ensure that government and business is transparent and accountable. However, the mass proliferation of computer and communication technologies has created a unique vulnerability that makes it difficult for agencies to effective protect security and privacy without reducing overall access to information. With this in mind, efforts to resolve this dichotomy must be considered.
3.1 Building Better it Infrastructure
Critically reviewing what scholars have noted about balancing freedom of information with privacy and security, the development and implementation of secure information technology infrastructure has been noted as a principle issue for improving outcomes in this area . Scholars argue that with the right it infrastructure in place, agencies will be able to effectively review and evaluate data to determine its relevance in terms of compromising personal information or security. In short, an additional layer of it infrastructure is needed to ensure that agencies are able to make positive decisions about information sharing and data transfer .
In addition to improving the infrastructure of it systems, researchers also argue that efforts to develop it systems will also facilitate the development of clear protocols and standards for improving the security of it systems . Because these systems are vulnerable to attack, which can markedly compromise the integrity of data, improved systems will help effectively reduce this threat. Further, scholars argue that through this process it will become a central feature for organizational development; presently, it is often under-funded and overlooked in terms of organizational development .
3.2 Defining Free Information
The final issue that should be considered in the context of balancing freedom of information and privacy and security is that of clearly defining what is meant by information. Scholars examining freedom of information argue that what information should and should not be available remains a persistent challenge for most agencies . Although efforts to address this issue have been considered in the past, the reality is that what should and does constitute free information varies from organization to organization and individual to individual. With this in mind, a clear definition of what information should be free and what free information is may provide a stronger basis for developing guidelines that will effectively improve safety and security while allowing government agencies to ensure that they protect personal data and national security.
Synthesizing all of the data provided in this investigation, it becomes evident that a true dichotomy has been created in the context of modern society. Freedom of information, while a vital and necessary part of democratic development, may compromise privacy and security -- two issues that are also important for the development of a democracy. Although this research demonstrates that balancing both of these issues is a formidable challenge for both government agencies and private organizations, the reality is that some consensus on how to achieve each of these goals must be garnered. Without consensus on these issues, the debate over how to effectively balance these issues will only become exacerbated over the course of time.
Given the importance of reconciling these issues, this investigation proposes two specific solutions that may provide some improvements to the current situation. In addition to fortify information technology infrastructure, an effort to define and understand what is meant by free or public information must be considered. Only by reaching consensus on the issue and creating clear guidelines will it be possible for the government and citizens to find a balance between freedom of information and privacy and security. Without consensus, this debate will continue with no effective resolution.
1] Holsen, S. (2007). Freedom of information in the UK, U.S. And Canada. Information Management Journal, 41(3), 50-55.
2] Kirtley, J.E. (2006). Transparency and accountability in a time of terror: The Bush Administration's assault on freedom of information. Communication Law & Policy, 11(4), 479-509.
3] Swartz, N. (2004). The world moves toward freedom of information. Information Management Journal, 28(6), 20-23.
4] Halstuk, M.E., & Chamberlin, B.F. (2006). The Freedom of Information Act 1966-2006: A retrospective on the rise of privacy protection over the…