Streamline your public records requests with New Jersey’s public records request & research platform.
Presented by the Montclair University Center for Cooperative Media
August 21st, 2018
Gives you several important rights:
- You can access any record “made, maintained or kept on file”*
- Custodian must approve or deny request in 7 business days
- Challenge denied requests in superior court or at the GRC
Generally, no matter how the request is submitted, the following steps take place: - Citzen submits their request
- Public agency responds, requests an extension, or denies request
- Citizen obtains records, or challenges denial in court or at the GRC
OPRAmachine launched in October, 2017. Within its first month, its database expanded to cover all 565 municipalities in New Jersey.
OPRAmachine eliminates many of the past pains of the public records request process:
The platform also introduces several new features:
Since our launch in October, 2017:
To enable advanced features, each request is assigned a unique tracking ID
Here’s one of them: 8f40bc9f
The tracking ID is used to generate a unique email addres for each OPRA request.
Sample: opra+request-1966-8f40bc9f @requests.opramachine.com
When government agencies reply to the request, the site detects the tracking ID. This allows responses to OPRA requests to be automatically published online and with the correct request.
Since the OPRA requests are created on our site and ultimately sent via email, no proprietary softare is needed by government agencies. And paper waste is eliminated.
- For clerks, responding is as simple as hitting “reply”
- Can easily be integrated with existing email systems
All you need is a valid email address to get started filing requests.
The OPRA law allows citizens to request records anonymously if they choose.
We believe OPRAmachine is the best way to file anonymous requests because user email addresses are never published or revealed to government agencies.
Only each OPRA request’s unique email is ever visible to the public or government.
OPRAmachine will notify you when your request gets a response. You’ll get an email with a link to view the response online.
An important part of the request process on OPRAmachine is classifying the status of requests. Users receive a survey when they get a response to describe the state of their OPRA request.
We ask users to classify requests so we can track outcome and trigger site functionality based on the request’s status.
Since users initially request the records, it’s easiest for them to classify their own requests
There are several states that requests can be classified into, including:
OPRAmachine lets you track requests & responses on multiple levels:
Tracking updates are sent daily via email.
A good source of leads for stories!
See what topics others are researching and view documents!
Monitor topics and geographic areas from a unified interface
Tracking alerts help keep public bodies compliant with OPRA’s time limits and reporters on deadline.
One use case we have identified is that some users will register for an account only to receive tracking updates and not to file their own requests, showing how the public records are being used by 3rd parties.
OPRAmachine has several features that make it attractive a research platform.
OPRAmachine’s advanced search tool can help you narrow down requests and documents and requests even further.
Filter content by the following criteria:
Here are some sample queries:
We are enabling comparative research using OPRA with the batch request feature.
This allows the same request to simultatenously be delivered to multiple government agencies & tracked.
Currently access to this feature is restricted to prevent abuse
Here are some succcesful batch OPRA requests:
The site has exposed more people to OPRA and public records, helping them to be better informed
By viewing requests and responses, requesters can draft better OPRA requests and know what to expect
Case study: Jeff Epstein taught citizens how to use it while researching issues in an NJ school district
The following groups of users are some examples of who is on our platform:
Running a project like this is not without its difficulties. Challenges that we have faced could be categorized as either technical or legal / moderation.
There have been multiple incidents where municipal government and police departments have inadvertently disclosed social security numbers and other confidential personal identifiers
In each instance of one of these types of disclosures, we immediately took down the material to prevent harm to individuals
Our software can automatically redact certain patterns of text.
This is currently deployed for email addresses on the site. Email addresses are automatically replaced with X’s to prevent automated spam bots from harvesting addresses from the site.
Later in 2018, we will deploy this technology for social security numbers. We hope that this will alleviate most instances of unintentional disclosures & further protect user privacy.
The more than the sum of individual OPRA requests
- Users submit public records requests using the site - Each public records request contributes to our archive - More people can be informed without needing to file a request
A fully featured OPRA toolkit for professional journalists & investigators, OPRAmachine Pro will be launching soon to sustain our development
Our core service will always remain free
Affordable for individuals and organizations
We are currently accepting pre-registrations from anyone interested in signing up for an OPRAmachine Pro account, with the launch of Pro services to be announced at a later date.
OPRAmachine data is open and accesible from multiple endpoints :
Data can be requested on several levels, including by:
Response by New Jersey Department of the Treasury to Gavin Rozzi on August 17, 2018.— OPRAmachine (@OPRAmachine) August 20, 2018
Department of the Treasury
Government Records Access Unit
STATE OF … https://t.co/KFdev7zzX6
One other potential application of this is to automatically post all OPRA requests for a given town on a town website or Facebook page.
This example can be seen live with current data on my personal website gavinrozzi.com
The code for this is open-source on Github
Thank you for attending our webinar!
Contact the OPRAmachine team: