Dysfunctional Search and the FBI, any of it sound familiar?

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Dysfunctional Search and the FBI, any of it sound familiar?

I think dysfunctional search is a great name. Unfortunately, it appears that the FBI wins the prize, but I am sure there are many organizations that also feel that their search is dysfunctional. An article in techdirt, ‘How The FBI’s Dysfunctional Search Systems Keep Information Out Of FOIA Requesters’ Hands’, did provide a chuckle, simply because it is just too late to take the US government seriously anymore.

To try to make this short, Trentadue versus the FBI, deals with a requested release of videotapes containing footage of the Oklahoma City bombing. Somehow during the first four days of testimony it was revealed that the FBI has ‘convenient’ information silos, instead of a cohesive repository for search. The problem is the person requesting the information must specify the correct records system for a comprehensive search to take place. The FBI typically only searches the main repository. In addition, the requester must specify in their request a ‘cross-reference’ check, which may mention the subject, but is not stored in the main repository. Again, the now beleaguered requester, must also send a request to the field offices involved, because the FBI ‘Records Information Dissemination’ has no cross-links to other than the original field office.

What about internal search at the FBI? The Central Records System (CRS), as it turns out, is not really a central repository and will accept three different methods of search, which will return three different sets of documents. One of the search methods, Automated Case Support (ACS) is used to search the CRS, but that search isn’t unified. To make matters worse the ACS is then split into three components. And, I think I’ll stop there as it just gets worse and worse, really it does. Oh, one more tidbit, the FBI decides what keywords to use.

I would imagine, or sincerely hope most organizations do not have a search environment such as the FBI. But enterprises do have silos of information and many have no integrated way to search across multiple repositories either via a software product that crosses repositories or through federated search. This should be a basic function. According to an AIIM study, only 18% of organizations have cross repository search capabilities. Maybe the FBI should provide training lessons.

Does your organization have cross repository search capabilities or federated search?

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