Local Governments Are Letting Silicon Valley Skirt Public Disclosure Laws
In Motherboard Jason Koebler provides another example of how private businesses are increasingly controlling government functions.
The town of Altamonte, a small suburb of Orlando, is going to pay Uber at least $1 million in taxpayer money over the next year to subsidize residents’ ridesharing trips. But should a journalist or concerned citizen want to learn more about the public transportation-replacing program, their public records request will ultimately end up in the hands of an Uber employee, who will decide whether or not the information is fit for public release.
It’s unsettling that a city government will allow a private corporation to decide what can or can’t be released under state public information laws, but such agreements are growing increasingly popular among both Silicon Valley companies and local governments, according to several Freedom of Information Act experts I’ve spoken with.
According to the Verge’s Spencer Woodman, “Uber granted itself a privilege to field public records requests that the city receives regarding its partnership.”
“In the event City receives a Public Record Law request for documents that Uber considers trade secret or otherwise confidential,’ the agreement states, the city “agrees to promptly notify Uber of said request and shall not make an immediate disclosure.”
Uber has a similar agreement in Boston (that we know of) and apparently both Uber and Lyft have one in San Francisco as well. (We have asked the city to provide us more information about those agreements.) Uber is likely seeking such arrangements in other cities around the country as Uber begins to transition from being a wholly private service to being one that, with taxpayer subsidization, could replace mass transit. . .