WhatDoTheyKnow makes it simple to submit Freedom of Information requests to public authorities.
As a member of the press, you may use it to:
- investigate stories
- browse requests which have been made by members of the public
Stories may be of local or national interest.
WhatDoTheyKnow is an unusually rich source for journalists. By its nature, it often enables individuals to uncover previously hidden facts.
WhatDoTheyKnow is an independent website, built by the not-for-profit organisation mySociety, where people can submit and read Freedom of Information requests. It was set up in response to the 2000 FOI act, which, mySociety perceived, was giving citizens rights that the majority did not know about, or understand how to access.
WhatDoTheyKnow allows anyone to submit a FOI request with minimum fuss. This is then sent to the relevant public body, while a copy is published on the website at the same time for anyone to read. All subsequent correspondence is also published.
Like all mySociety sites, the code is open source and may be used or adapted for free. The DIY mySociety community was set up to support and advise people in countries around the world who have, or who wish to, set up sites like ours. In 2011, mySociety launched the Alaveteli platform, which allows anyone to set up a Right to Know/Freedom of Information website in his or her own country, no matter how (or whether) their legal system works in this area of jurisdiction.
Lead developer: Matthew Somerville
All requests sent through WhatDoTheyKnow are also published on the site; if you would like to keep your investigation private, you should contact the relevant authority directly.
Find requests on a specific subject
Use the search box on the homepage to search for any key word or phrase.
Find recent requests
Read the very latest facts to be uncovered. Recent successful requests (ie, those which have been answered) can be found on this page.
Find local stories
Search for the name of a town, city or region from the homepage.
- Select authorities to see public bodies containing that name in their title (eg a search for ‘Leeds’ brings up ‘Leeds City Council’, ‘Leeds Metropolitan University’, etc)
- Select requests to see all previous FOI requests containing that name in the the request or response.
Find requests to a specific body
Search for any authority from the home page, or browse a complete list of authorities on this page.
WhatDoTheyKnow publishes all correspondence between the requester and the public body. Pages typically look like this:
- The original request
- An automatic response from the body
- The reply to the request
Pages may also contain:
- Correspondence clarifying the exact request being made, or chasing late responses
- Annotations from the requester or other site users.
The reply is often sent as a PDF attachment which can be viewed as a PDF or HTML at the top of the message from the public body.
For lots more information about how WhatDoTheyKnow works, read our concise Help pages.
See this blog post for a list of our team’s favouriter or most notable requests in the site’s history.
We do not currently publish league tables or statistics to show, for example, which authorities respond most quickly to FOI requests, or which answer the most.
However, you can find some of this information on this blog post (the author is unaffiliated to mySociety).
Before drawing assumptions from data you find on WhatDoTheyKnow, please consider:
- WhatDoTheyKnow is not the only channel through which FOI requests can be made, so it cannot be used to judge a body’s overall responsiveness.
- Some authorities are more likely to receive vexatious requests, which they are legally permitted to refuse – and this can skew their apparent responsiveness
You can subscribe to any request, authority, keyword or user by email or RSS via the icons at the top right of the request page.
Make contact with a user
If you would like to interview one of our users, please contact email@example.com who will pass on your details to the user in question. Note that the team is comprised mainly of volunteers, so you may not receive an immediate reply.
In return, we require a press mention or credit for WhatDoTheyKnow.
Make contact with the team
We are happy to participate in interviews, or answer questions about the website and its place in society. We cannot give opinions about individual FOI requests, the responsiveness of specific authorities, or anything that will compromise our position of neutrality.
In the first instance, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.