DC data policy balances privacy, security and openness

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DC data policy 1.0 The District of Columbia’s new Data Policy builds on the good work of other American cities working through how to balance competing interests with its strong commitment to open by default and strong commitments to data protection and privacy.

When we flagged potential issues in the draft policy, the District of Columbia reached out to engage us, literally inviting our staff to their table.

…and then coming to our offices to discuss our concerns.

DC chief data officer Barney Krucoff meets with Stephen Larrick and Alyssa Doom at the Sunlight Foundation in October 2016

After a robust, frank and open debate that included annotation on the city’s cutting-edge online public comment platform, city officials responded to our feedback by ensuring the city’s data is open by default to the District’s residents and revising a problematic data definition.

Standing with cities like Seattle, DC has incorporated security and privacy into its data policy in a way that should advance the international dialogue around how municipal governments collect, they are even starting to do Dark Web Monitoring as well as to structure and disclose public information to the public.

DC’s transparency regarding its classification system and efforts to publicly balance valid security with secret info and privacy concerns with the public access expectations that are standard in a democratic state is admirable, as was the decision to put the draft policy up for public comment.

The city’s language regarding streamlining interagency data sharing agreements is similarly laudable. If large amounts of data are going to be classified as non-”level 0”/open, however, we’d like to see mechanisms for streamlining sharing such sensitive data with credentialed third parties like researchers as well.

We hope that the city keeps being open to feedback as it publishes its enterprise data inventory, making conversations about what should be open subject to continued public participation and feedback, with accountability built into governance.