A ‘trailer’ and the podcast feed

This trailer is a test cast so that I can validate the RSS feed and submit it to iTunes. Listen with the player above, download it here or subscribe in iTunes. If you don’t use iTunes, the podcast feed is here.

If you can’t hear it and have trouble subscribing or downloading it in iTunes please let me know. If it works, I’d like to hear that too!


A ‘trailer’ and the podcast feed

Should the Oireachtas give more information on porn use?

3034011834_cd7c182ce7_bThe houses of the Oireachtas continue to be fertile ground for FOI requests, the latest being the Irish Independent report on access to pornography, dating and gambling websites by members and their staff.

Remember that the Oireachtas is a workplace, so these sites are being accessed at work, by elected public representatives and/or their employees, using publicly funded systems and resources.

An Oireachtas spokesperson provided a speculative, potential defence for any member or staffer found to have accessed inappropriate sites.

She suggested some inappropriate sites may have been clicked on accidentally and stressed that some of the websites may stem from ‘pop-ups’, sites which ‘auto-refresh’ if left open, or as a result of computer viruses. Some sites were incorrectly categorised by the system, she added.
I don’t know what the last sentence means. What system is involved? Who incorrectly categorised the sites?
The spokesperson said that staff who are found to have attempted to access pornographic material are dealt with through formal disciplinary procedures but, of course, the Oireachtas is not willing to release details of those procedures on the basis that it is “personal information”.
“It would be the understanding of individuals that such details would remain confidential. Disclosure may prejudice the effectiveness of internal disciplinary inquiries,” she added.
Two things here. The understanding of the individuals is not a reason for refusing the release of documents, particularly given this information was not provided by the individuals to the Oireachtas per se (an exemption does exist for information given in confidence, but this is not that). Neither, to my mind, does the risk of prejudice to disciplinary inquiries stack up as a reason to refuse documents. It might in the case of ongoing inquiries, but not concluded processes.
The Freedom of Information Act exempts from its scope many records concerning parliamentarians but these records would not fall under those exemptions. It also exempts information obtained in confidence but, again, this information does not meet that definition. So, the refusal to release the records is presumably based on section 37 of the 2014 Act:
[A] head shall refuse to grant an FOI request if, in the opinion of the head, access to the record concerned would involve the disclosure of personal information (including personal information relating to a deceased individual).
However, section 37 includes a public interest clause which would permit the release of such information. It must be assumed that the Oireachtas does not believe the public interest in such information being available outweighs the right to privacy of people who have accessed pornography in their workplace. People who might be public representatives, and have been privately reprimanded for such behaviour. It appears that Oireachtas officials, behaving as employers, can know about this and punish members for it, but not voters.
Indeed, the report says that the Oireachtas would not even release details of the number of people reprimanded. It is difficult to see how statistics or anonymised information like that breaches any duty of confidentiality or right to privacy (if such exists in this situation).
The report does not mention whether the Independent has sought a review of the decision to withhold certain records.
Should the Oireachtas give more information on porn use?