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Introduction to WhatDoTheyKnow #

What is WhatDoTheyKnow for? #

Under the Freedom of Information Act, it’s everyone’s right to request information from UK Government and UK public bodies.

WhatDoTheyKnow shows you how to make a Freedom of Information request and access information about central government, local government, Parliament, the NHS, the armed forces, state funded schools and universities and other public authorities.

You can also use the site to find out information that regulators hold about businesses, charities and other organisations.

How does the site work? #
You choose the public authority that you would like information from, then write a brief note describing what you want to know. We then send your request to the public authority. Both your request, and any response received, are automatically published on the website for you and anyone else to find and read.
Why would I bother to do this? #

Public bodies are funded by the public purse: you pay taxes, and then government funds its activities with your money: all sorts of things that affect your life, from health care through to national defence. Some it does well, some it does badly.

Since it’s your money that public bodies are spending, you might be interested to check that they are running efficiently, making good decisions, and doing the job they are supposed to do.

The more we find out about how government works, the better able we are to make suggestions to celebrate the things that are done well, and improve the things that are done badly. Some people and organisations use the site for research; others for journalism, campaigning or awareness-raising. Some are simply curious.

Why would the public authority bother to reply? #
Under Freedom of Information (FOI) law, or sometimes other access to information laws, public authorities have to respond. The response will either contain the information you want, or give a legal reason why it has not been provided.
Does useful information get released through the site? #
Yes. Thousands of documents have been released through the site. See also: 366 Interesting things that we know because of WhatDoTheyKnow.
What if I see a request I feel to be inappropriate? #

Requests for personal information and vexatious requests are not considered valid for FOI purposes. See our House Rules for more information on how we expect people to use this site.

If you believe a request is not suitable, you can report it for attention by the site administrators.

Why are there some requests I can’t report? #

If a request has already been reported to the site administrators, you can’t report it a second time - this is to prevent the administrators being notified multiple times about the same issue before they’ve had a chance to conduct a review.

Where a request that you think should be taken down has been previously reported, but a decision has been made not to remove it from public view, you can use the form in the sidebar of the request page to contact the administrators.

How many people use the WhatDoTheyKnow? #

We have over 150,000 registered users and around 15% to 20% of requests to UK Central Government are made through WhatDoTheyKnow.

But that’s just the people who request information. Most visitors to our website don’t make requests themselves, but benefit from being able to access information that’s held in the requests and responses of others. Around six million people per year visit the site.

Who makes WhatDoTheyKnow? #

WhatDoTheyKnow is run and maintained by UK Citizens Online Democracy (UKCOD) as part of its mySociety project. UKCOD is a registered charity in England and Wales (no. 1076346). UKCOD is also a limited company registered in England and Wales (no. 03277032) and a registered data controller (no. Z9602302). The UKCOD trustees form the governing body of the charity and are ultimately responsible for controlling the management and administration of the charity. UKCOD’s registered office is 483 Green Lanes, London, N13 4BS.

UKCOD is not a public body.

The site was initially funded by the JRSST Charitable Trust.

If you like what we’re doing, then you can make a donation.

How can I keep up with news about WhatDoTheyKnow? #
We have a blog and we’re on Facebook and Twitter too.

Next, read about making requests -->