Today in OpenGov: When open data policies are closed,, dark money spending, #CensusFail and more


DECODE THIS: We’re proud to introduce Open Data Policies Decoded, a new collaboration with our our friends at the State Decoded and the OpenGov Foundation to make municipal open data policies into structured information. Explore the Github repo and dig into Stephen Larrick’s explanation about what we are doing and why. [READ MORE]

WHEN OPEN IS CLOSED: As Larrick explored in a second post, the problem of open data policies that aren’t open is much more common than we’d like to see. If a city or state can’t release its open data policy, ordinance, executive order or law as open data, there’s unfortunately good reason to be concerned about how it will approach actual datasets. [READ MORE]

EDITOR’S NOTE: After some much-needed vacation, your faithful correspondent is back online. Please send me news, ideas, data, analysis, events and feedback at or @digiphile on Twitter.


  • HELP! Sunlight is investigating political “dark money” in states this cycle — but we need your help. [READ MORE]
  • OPAQUE: Real estate mogul Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, has embraced fundraising in the general election but not transparency for the bundlers helping him to collect donations. [Politico]
  • TRUMP PACs: Who is in the crew of super political action committees supporting Trump? Sunlight’s Libby Watson looked into “who they are, who’s in charge, what they’ve raised — and the intense discord between them.” [READ MORE]
  • LOGGING ON: How will the internet change political advertising? It’s clear that social media and mobile devices already have changed our politics, but we’re still learning how and with what impact. [Washington Post]


  • NOT YOUR AVERAGE THINK (TANK) PIECE: An investigation by the New York Times explored how think tanks in Washington are amplifying the influence of corporations in the nation’s capital. In today’s DC, researcher might wear a scholar’s robe one day and a lobbyist’s suit the next. [NEW YORK TIMES]
  • PROGRESS! U.S. government code is “the People’s Code,” writes U.S. chief information officer Tony Scott, at, introducing the nation’s first ever official software source code policy:

    We’re releasing the Federal Source Code policy to support improved access to custom-developed Federal source code. The policy, which incorporates feedback received during the public comment period, requires new custom-developed source code developed specifically by or for the Federal Government to be made available for sharing and re-use across all Federal agencies. It also includes a pilot program that will require Federal agencies to release at least a portion of new custom-developed Federal source code to the public and support agencies in going beyond that minimum requirement.

    Sunlight commented on the proposed policy back in April. We look forward to seeing evolve. [Fedscoop]

  • DEBUNKING: 18F, which develops open source software by default, published a post offering up some “facts about open source in government.” [DigitalGov]

State and local

  • GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL: In a guest blog post, Dave Maass invited you — yes, YOU — to join the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Data Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation to collect links to enterprise data catalogs across California. On Aug. 27, we’ll be holding physical events in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and inviting remote participation from around the world to help combine these data catalogs into a single repository for public use. To register just sign up here. [READ MORE]
  • CIRCLING BACK: Shahrzad Rizvi decided to look into how effective the open data policies cities are passing are in practice. What he found was both satisfying and frustrating: Huge majorities of cities are adopting some of 31 Open Data Policy Guidelines while tiny minorities are adopting others. [READ MORE]
  • SECURE THIS: Should the scanners and ballots that make up the U.S. voting system be considered critical infrastructure? [Science Friday]


  • 404: After facing tough questions about privacy and security of citizen data, the Australian Census is dealing with a technical disaster that is not inspiring confidence that it’s up to protecting that data: Its website is crashing. If the government of Australia can’t fix the technical issues and reassure the nation that  personal data collected in it won’t be made into a product without more informed debate and consent, this SNAFU could become an international case study in how to mismanage the creation and protection of a crucial commons: a nation’s knowledge about itself. [Guardian]
  • LOOK UP: French app CityLity encourages its users to interact with other people in their neighborhood. [Springwise]
  • COUNTING: Here’s a look at how citizen scientists can be constructively integrated into research. [The Conversation]
  • SLOW DOWN: Dr. Eric Topol and John Wilbanks argue that countries need to stop the privatization of health data. [Nature]
  • LINKAGE? We love the Govlab’s weekly email newsletter. Its selected readings on open data in developing countries is a useful survey of recent literature, along with some of the links we’ve shared above. What are you reading?


  • TALK FAST: The “Civil Society Stakeholder Session” originally planned for this spring has been rescheduled for August 23rd in D.C., at the National Archives.[RSVP]
  • TRANSITIONS: Public Citizen is hosting a forum focusing on the ongoing presidential transition teams at the National Press Club in D.C. on Sept. 7.  [RSVP]
  • CIVIC HACKING: Etalab and Civic Hall are co-organizing an Open Government Partnership Toolbox sprint in New York City on Sept. 21. [RSVP]

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