The Third Peril

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With the increasingly rapid growth in metabarcoding and metagenomics , and with machine-learning models increasing the number of species we can identify from remote-sensing, GBIF will tip over from being at a first order of approximation a bird observation database to organised views of all-taxon community composition and canopy vegetation.

At that point, GBIF will be the evidence-base for constructing the biodiversity-oriented Essential Biodiversity Variables as a space-time-taxon hypercube. A surprisingly large number of the candidate EBVs are different views of this common hypercube. We need to be able to measure and monitor biodiversity in this way so we can genuinely include biodiversity as a measurable element in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.

We can improve spatial and temporal resolution and taxonomic coverage as we proceed. What interests me most is how the idea of a digital ecosystem should be driving our priorities around data capture, integration and models. Although progress has been slow, we desperately need a clear and sensible set of EBVs to guide us.

The Third Peril: Book One of a Trilogy

The essential issue is for us to know what we most need to know in order to:. The third of these is important, We depend on climate models to predict future distributions. In the same way, changing species distributions play a part in predicting future terrestrial ecosystems and through these have a role in predicting changes in hydrology, agricultural sustainability, urban liveability, etc. Commodities Futures Trading Comm'n, F. The Commission had solicited information from these "trade sources" under express or implied promises of confidentiality.

It released the substance of the comments, but argued that the sources' identities were covered by Exemption 6 since release might well subject them to harassment. Since all parties agreed that the records were not personnel or medical files, the issue on appeal was whether the records were "similar files.

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Circuit held that they were not. It admitted that there is "some apparent inconsistency in our earlier decisions as to the precise manner of approach to the problem" and then set forth its test for determining whether a given record was a "similar file. First, to meet the "similar file" test, release of the information must "infringe on some privacy interest. To be sure, there may be some slight privacy interest involved here insofar as release of identifying details would expose the occupations of these sources, their relationship to the Board, and how they perceive the workings of the market enterprise from which they derive at least part of their livelihood.

But the fact remains that the withheld information associates these individuals with business of the Board, and not with any aspect of their personal lives.

The interest in nondisclosure thus asserted is not in continued privacy of personal matters, but in anonymity of criticism on purely commercial matters. Certainly, no fact of an intimate nature is likely to be revealed by providing the Board of Trade with access to the names of those who censured the shipping provisions or proposed alternatives.

In September, , the D. Circuit handed down two additional decisions which made clear its determination to interpret "similar files" very narrowly. In the first of these, Simpson v. Vance, No. This publication "lists employees of the Department and other federal agencies in the field of foreign relations with their educational backgrounds, employment experience, and essential biographical facts. Circuit, relying on Board of Trade, held that the Register was not a "similar file":.

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Although there is no dispute that the information which the Department is withholding relates to the employees' private lives, and therefore some privacy interest is present, that interest is not of the "magnitude" such as those warranting protection in personnel and medical files. Slip op. It reached this conclusion despite the fact that the information in question was derived primarily from the subjects' personnel files and that the Department had filed affidavits claiming that the reason for withholding the information was to protect the individuals at foreign posts.

Four days later, the D. Circuit reached a similar conclusion in Sims v. Central Intelligence Agency, Nos.

FOIA Update: Policy Discussion: Similar Files: A Concept in Peril

Again relying on Board of Trade, the court held that this information was not sufficiently intimate to be a "similar file" despite the assertions that release might subject these individuals to risks of ostracism and career detriment. Because there are other issues to be resolved in both Simpson and Sims, e. The sparse legislative history on "similar files" supports a broad interpretation rather than the narrow one now advanced by the D. The Senate report said "that the scope of the exemption is held within bounds by use of 'clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

It seems clear that Congress intended this phrase as a catch-all since it was not possible to list all the kinds of records the exemption was intended to cover. These conclusions are reinforced by the House Report which states that Exemption 6 was intended to protect "those files the disclosure of which might harm the individual. In his initial guidance to federal agencies on the way in which FOIA was to be interpreted, the Attorney General described Exemption 6 as "intended to exclude from the disclosure requirements all personnel and medical files, and all private and personal information contained in other files which, if disclosed to the public, would amount to a clearly unwarranted invasion to the privacy of any person.

Seven years later, the Attorney General declared that the privacy interest under Exemption 6 "does not extend only to types of information that people generally do not make public. Rather, in the present context it must be deemed generally to include information about an individual which he could reasonably assert an option to withhold from the public at large because of its intimacy or its possible adverse effects upon himself or his family.

Most earlier court decisions do not support the D. Circuit's interpretation of "similar files.

The Port of Peril (Robert Grandon, book 3) by Otis Adelbert Kline

We do not believe that the use of the term 'similar' was intended to narrow the Exemption. Circuit largely ignored this majority view and it focused instead on a group of decisions which can, in limited instances, be read as partially supporting its narrow interpretation.

Space does not permit a discussion of all these decisions, 7 but two significant cases are discussed below. Getman v. The court assumed that these records were similar files but nevertheless ordered release because of its determination that, as a result of counterbalancing public interest factors, release would not be a clearly unwarranted invasion of the employees' personal privacy. In a footnote it indicated that withholding might be justified in response to "[a] request by less well qualified applicants, or applicants with a less carefully designed or more disruptive study.

Circuit's view that Getman had "strongly suggested that the requested list of names and addresses failed to qualify as 'similar files. In Getman the D. Circuit did state Exemption 6's purpose as being to protect records "which would contain 'intimate details' of a 'highly personal' nature," but it did so in the context of deciding whether release would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, not in an interpretation of "similar files. Satisfying these threshold requirements does not automatically mean that the records can be withheld.

The agency still must determine whether release would be a "clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Circuit also relied heavily on the Supreme Court's discussion in Dept. Rose, U. The Supreme Court clearly did not reach a definitive holding as to what constitutes a similar file.

More About L. P. Hoffman

Rather it concluded, with very little discussion, that:. Second, and most significantly, the disclosure of these summaries implicates similar [presumably to a personnel file] privacy values. The first implication of the D. Circuit's decisions is that they result in a paradox.

Information, no matter how innocuous, which is contained in a personnel or medical file is eligible for possible withholding under Exemption 6 in that it meets the exemption's threshold requirement. The same information, however, will not meet this requirement if it is found in a file which does not qualify as "similar" under the narrow definition contained in these decisions.

More significantly, this narrow definition means that for much of the personal information in files, agencies will be prohibited from asserting Exemption 6 on the basis of the impact release might have on the individuals involved.

ISBN 13: 9781935375043

For example, in Simpson the D. Circuit apparently considered it irrelevant whether the State Department was correct in its assertion that release of the Register would greatly increase the possibility of terrorist actions against some of the persons listed. In addition, the court's emphasis on the similarity of "files" is inconsistent with the clear shift of attention and emphasis by both Congress and other courts from "files" to "records" to "portions" of records. The Congressional purpose in including Exemption 6 in FOIA was to protect individuals from clearly unwarranted invasions of personal privacy.

Under the balancing test, the seriousness of the invasion is weighed against any public interest in the release. In summary it should be reemphasized that the broad reading of "similar files" will not result in the withholding of all personal information in federal agencies' records. Agencies will still have to determine, first, that release would be an invasion of privacy, and, second, that any such invasion would be clearly unwarranted after the required balancing.

But agencies would be able to protect the personal privacy of individuals about whom they have personal information from unjustified harm no matter what files the information is in. The right to privacy is fundamental in American social, political, and legal history.