Image credit: Donald Kautz via Flickr under Creative Commons Licence

The Freedom of Information Act had a busy year in 2017. A simple Google News search for the entire year shows hundreds of stories published in the UK that mention the FOI Act.

These may be stories reported from FOI requests that have been made by journalists, charities and more or reporting about the piece of legislation itself. While no academic work has been published about FOI in the media in 2017 it’s evident journalists are still relying on the transparency law for reporting.

These are a selection of my favourite FOI stories from the 12 months of 2017. They’re selected just from personal preference. There’s no scientific methodology that’s went into it.

Met is giving up on non-serious crime – The Times

A crime assessment policy, obtained by The Times, revealed that the UK’s biggest police force was stopping responding to some less serious crimes. “Numerous offences such as vandalism, vehicle crime and fuel theft will not be pursued if the cost of the damage or amount taken is less than £50,” the paper wrote.

Read the story here.

Edinburgh Zoo ‘believes giant panda Tian Tian is pregnant’The Scotsman

An unlikely story to come from an FOI request and one that went global. Emails released under FOI – from a request about the pregnancy – it was revealed when the giant panda may have given birth. “Thanks for the update – exciting times (we hope),” an email from a Scottish government official said.

Read the full story here. 

Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’ – Open Democracy UK

Emails obtained from the Electoral Commission showed how “unusual” spending was made during the EU referendum. The public revelation of the emails forced the Electoral Commission to reopen its investigations.

Read the full story here.

Here’s What TfL Learned From Tracking Your Phone On the Tube – Gizmodo UK

Transport for London started using Wi-Fi data to track phones connecting to its network in December 2016. Gizmodo UK FOI’d the results of the trial. The response showed the weird behaviour people in London have when it comes to navigating the city.

Read the full story here. 

Government WhatsApp group on Brexit released under FOI – RTE

After seeing a report that government officials used WhatsApp to discuss Brexit, journalists at RTE FOI’d for the conversations. Surprisingly, the publication was given a chat log of messages sent on WhatsApp. As far as I know, it’s the only time in the UK and Ireland that WhatsApp messages have been given out under FOI.

Read the full story here

Met police hands victims of crime over to the Home Office for immigration enforcement –

“The Met admitted passing on details of both victims and witnesses of crime if there were concerns over their immigration status,” wrote after an FOI request. The website discovered police were passing suspected criminals to immigration officials instead of dealing with the crimes themselves.

Read the full story here

I am a journalist and author. I am a journalist at the UK edition of WIRED magazine. In 2015, my first book Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. My second book Reed Hastings: Building Netflix, was published in March 2020. I created FOI Directory in 2012 and have maintained it in my spare time ever since.