Can Nulpunt “Abolish Government Secrecy?”

In a word: No.

Nulpunt is an online database that lets individuals subscribe to topics and, when a freedom of information request on the topic becomes available, ‘pushes’ the content to the user. This mediates the present format for such requests, where individuals tend to be hunting for specific information and the population generally has no effective means to see or understand the information divulged to fellow citizens.

The aspiration of the service is that government secrecy can be undermined by making information more prominently available. I’m not confident that this can possibly be the case because the service fails to address the primary means by which states keep citizens in the dark: it does not prevent state agents from refusing requests nor from redacting significant elements from released documents.

While it may be effective in nations such as the Netherlands, which have recently adopted new transparency laws, I can’t imagine Canada or the US moving to entirely new document release processes without a significant stick. Nulpunt is not, and cannot, function as that stick so long as governments refuse to recognize their situatedness as servants, rather than masters, of the population at large.