Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Type of site
Freedom of Information website
Created byUser-generated/Public Authority generated
Launched25 February 2008; 14 years ago (2008-02-25)[1][2]
Current statusActive

WhatDoTheyKnow[3][4] is a site by mySociety designed to help people in the United Kingdom make Freedom of Information requests. It publishes both the requests and the authorities’ responses online, with the aim of making information available to all, and of removing the need for multiple people to make the same requests.[5][6][7][8] The site acts as a permanent public database archive of FOI requests made through it.[9][10]

Around 15% to 20% of requests to UK Central Government are made through WhatDoTheyKnow.com.[11][12] Over 45,000 public bodies have been added to the site, mainly by volunteers.[3] More than 800,000 requests have been made using the site[3] and more than 4.5 million people visited it in 2014[13]

WhatDoTheyKnow has been described by The Guardian as "an idiot's guide to making a freedom of information request."[14] The Information Commissioner's Office has stated that it believes "the most up-to-date informal list of all public authorities is held on the website".[15] Information released through the site has given rise to serious and less serious news stories.[16][17][18] The site is used by a number of MPs.[19]

The site was originally available only in English but a partially translated Welsh version was added in 2013.[20]


In 2011, the site cost around £12,000 a year to run.[2] The server costs are partly sponsored[21] by Bytemark Hosting.


WhatDoTheyKnow started life as the winning idea for mySociety competition in 2006 for ideas for public interest websites to build.[22] Both Phil Rodgers and Francis Irving entered the idea of a site to make it easy to make Freedom of Information requests.[23] Francis Irving later became the main developer of the site,[24] which was launched in 2008.[25]

The site was nominated for a number of awards:

WhatDoTheyKnow volunteer Alex Skene gave evidence to Justice Committee related to Post-Legislative Scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 on 21 February 2012.[29]

As with other mySociety citizen-to-government software, mySociety sells WhatDoTheyKnow as a service for councils. In April 2012, Brighton and Hove councillor Jason Kitkat announced: “We [the council] are working with mySociety to adapt their WhatDoTheyKnow system to support a better workflow for freedom of information requests and proactive publishing of everything we release." [30]

WhatDoTheyKnow was developed as open-source software. It now runs on the Alaveteli platform, which is itself an adaptation of the original code written to power WhatDoTheyKnow. Alaveteli was developed to make easier the process of setting up a site like WhatDoTheyKnow in other countries.


  1. ^ "WhatDoTheyKnow.com WHOIS, DNS, & Domain Info - DomainTools". WHOIS. Retrieved 2016-08-09.
  2. ^ a b WriteToThem research report|year=2011, Tobias Escher
  3. ^ a b c "Whatdotheyknow.com".
  4. ^ MacLeod, Michael (October 19, 2010). "Bookmarked: Michael Traill's online soapbox". The Guardian. London.
  5. ^ Information revolution, New Statesman, Becky Hogg, 2008
  6. ^ Foi tips for communications professionals, Information Commissioner
  7. ^ Victory for WhatDoTheyKnow, BBC website
  8. ^ Local by Social, Andy Gibson
  9. ^ Whitelaw, Ben (5 August 2011). "ICO Twitter advice fuels open data drive". TheGuardian.com.
  10. ^ Rogers, Simon (2012-03-20). "Freedom of Information: an FoI request for every day of 2012, listed". The Guardian. London.
  11. ^ Alex Skene (1 July 2011). "WhatDoTheyKnow's Share of Central Government FOI Requests — Q2 2011". mySociety. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  12. ^ "Freedom of Information: 30 Jan 2012: Hansard Written Answers - TheyWorkForYou".
  13. ^ "Are you one in 6,983,028? Looking at our UK visitor numbers / mySociety". 11 May 2015.
  14. ^ No Minister: Keep skunks out of Whitehall, Guardian, Dick Vinegar
  15. ^ Information Commissioner's Office response: IRQ0365760
  16. ^ Child Trust Funds: families count cost of child benefit delay , Telegraph
  17. ^ Government; Police; Australia; Home Office; Censorship; Lies, damn lies and election polls: Why GE2015 pundits fluffed the numbers so badly; us?, What does the NHS’s new IT plan really want to extract from; riots, CPS grovels after leaking IDs of hundreds arrested during student. "Government wastes millions on redundant cycle route planner". The Register.
  18. ^ Morris, Steven (2011-07-07). "When zombies attack! Bristol city council ready for undead invasion". The Guardian. London.
  19. ^ WhatDoTheyKnow Beats Parliamentary Question, mySociety, November 2009
  20. ^ WhatDoTheyKnow now 6% in Welsh, WhatDoTheyKnow blog, 16 January 2013
  21. ^ "Migrating to Bytemark (who rock) / mySociety". 22 October 2012.
  22. ^ "The mySociety Call for Proposals: The winner and runners up / mySociety". 27 September 2006.
  23. ^ "About".
  24. ^ "mySociety's Freedom of Information site goes live / mySociety". 22 February 2008.
  25. ^ "News / mySociety".
  26. ^ The Daily Telegraph archived
  27. ^ http://www.newstatesman.com/nma/nma2008/finalists08 archived
  28. ^ "New Media Awards 2009 - Winners". Archived from the original on 2011-11-13. Retrieved 2011-07-24.
  29. ^ "WhatDoTheyKnow - Who's Lobbying".
  30. ^ "Brighton and Hove Green chief eyes open goal". 17 April 2012.