Today in OpenGov: The big picture for Open Data Policies Decoded, opening text, FOIA feedback for DoJ, summer reading


OPEN TEXT: According to Stephen Larrick, the definition of open data as “non-narrative” in New York Local Law 11 that Sunlight flagged in 2013 has spread to at least 14 other open data policies around the United States. Unfortunately, that “may be interpreted as discouraging the inclusion of important public information like policy text in open data programs,” he writes, which means that bad policy is spreading “copy-and-paste.” As more cities and state adopt open data policies, open government advocates need to make sure that they’re adopting the best aspects of what’s been formed before and dropping the worst. “If we can reduce the barriers to the spread of public policy language that supports open data generally and open legislative data specifically, we’ll enable a kind of virtuous self-replication, laying the groundwork for increased usability of all kinds of policy — not just open data policy,” writes Larrick. [READ MORE]

EMAIL THE DOJ: Two elements of the White House announcements that accompanied President Obama signing Freedom of Information Act reforms into law bear close attention and scrutiny. The first is the creation of a Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal for FOIA that will be co-led by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Department of Justice and the National Archives and Records Administration. The second is expanding the “release to one, release to all” pilots to all agencies. The second element would be a significant change in the nation’s information disclosure policies that would not only complement recent updates to how the federal government protects, structures and publishes public records but could, in the long run, increase public knowledge of what is being done in our name. The Justice Department is now soliciting feedback on the proposed extension of the “Release to one, release to all” across the federal government, encouraging the public to write to The Department will invite journalists and members of the public to “provide direct feedback on policy” and the next meeting of the Chief FOIA Officer’s Council. [READ MORE]

SUMMER READING: The Journal of Community Informatics has a special issue on open data and sustainable development. We hope you’ll download it and send us highlights and reviews. [READ MORE]


  • Sunlight is investigating political “dark money” in states this cycle — but we need you to tell us what you’re seeing and reading. [READ MORE]
  • FEC commissioner Ann Ravel called for a ban on foreign money in U.S. politics. [The Intercept]
  • Related: “Chinese Money Flowing Into U.S. Elections Highlights Importance of Disclosure and FEC Enforcement” [Campaign Legal Center]
  • “The money is starting to roll in on California’s 17 ballot propositions. A lot of it.” [LA Times]
  • David Farenthold: “In 2007, Trump was forced to face his own falsehoods. And he did, 30 times.” [Washington Post]
  • Nathaniel Persily: “Facebook may soon have more power over elections than the FEC. Are we ready?” [Washington Post]


  • Nine months ahead of the reporting deadline mandated by the DATA Act, the General Accountability Office (GAO) found some problems: as the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of the Treasury continue to push forward on technical implementation, they need to “improve reviewing agency implementation plans and monitor progress,” particularly with respect to data quality and defining where the law applies. According to a new GAO report, OMB wouldn’t give the GAO a list of agencies that are requires to report under the DATA Act. It make sense to focus on 24 biggest agencies first, but the rest of the federal government aren’t carved out from the requirements of the landmark open data law: the White House needs to get this right, transparently, this fall. [Data Coalition]
  • The Department of Justice billed Judicial Watch, a nonprofit, $50,000 for a search that did not produce any documents responsive to their FOIA request. [Judicial Watch]
  • Documentary filmmakers are calling on the Justice Department to protect citizens’ right to record the public actions of law enforcement. [Guardian]
  • Two bills before Congress could protect national security contractors who want to act as whistleblowers. [Govtrack]

State and local

  • Connecticut’s Department of Correction has begun releasing data on its pre-trial bail population. Now, the public and media can begin to learn about what’s in it. [New Haven Independent]
  • In Los Angeles, “the GeoHub platform increases efficiency in city services by providing real-time access to over 500 datasets shared across 20 city departments.” [Govtech]
  • Here’s what Open Government Foundation developer Bill Hunt wishes he’d known before opening up the law online. [Krues8dr]
  • An out-of-state super political action committee got involved in DC’s local election. [WAMU]
  • Sunlight’s study on body cam legislation should spur more discussion, reports Eryagon Eidem. [Govtech]
  • Jacksonville, Mississippi’s experience shows the power of data in a small city, argues Stephen Goldsmith. [Governing]


  • STUDY: “The findings indicate that government data openness positively affects the formation of knowledge bases in a country and that the level of knowledge base of a country positively affects the global competitiveness of a country.” [Science Direct]
  • FERTILE: “Open agricultural data is more than academic theory; it’s plausible and practical,” writes James Coe. “Over 450 organizations are already publishing data to the IATI Standard, a shared machine-readable data format set up in 2008 in order to harmonise how donors publish data. Despite much progress, however, more work needs to be done to improve the quality and comprehensiveness of available agricultural investment data.” [Publish What You Fund]
  • DISCUSS: or more context on open agricultural data, watch video of Alex Howard’s 2015 conversation with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Open Data Institute Director Gavin Thomas, and Chancellor Emeritus Brady Deaton of the University of Missouri, below. [Transcript]


  • The “Civil Society Stakeholder Session” originally planned for this spring has been rescheduled for August 23rd in D.C., at the National Archives. [RSVP]
  • 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]
  • The annual Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) Summit will be in New York City, September 15-16. [RSVP]
  • Etalab and Civic Hall are co-organizing an Open Government Partnership Toolbox sprint in New York City on Sept. 21. [RSVP]
  • There will be a workshop on Data and Algorithmic Transparency at Columbia University on Nov 19, 2016. Proposals due 9/9. [RSVP]

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