Ethics Review and Freedom of Information Requests in Qualitative Research


Freedom of information (FOI) is typically analyzed as a law and legal discourse. In sociology, criminology, and socio-legal studies, FOI is also increasingly used as a method to generate disclosures about inside government practices. Absent from this growing literature regarding FOI are reflections on how to theorize FOI processes and their relation to state power and information. Drawing from information and archival studies, sociologies of secrecy and deception, and actor-network theory, we advance three frameworks to make this contribution. First, we conceive of FOI as a crucial component in the live archive. Second, we conceive of FOI as a mechanism for obfuscation, state secrecy, and legitimacy. Third, we conceive of FOI as an actor-network. In conclusion, we reflect on what these three theoretical approaches and tools add to literature on information, power, research methods, and government.

Research Ethics, 14(4)