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Tag Archive: open by default

Boilerplate Open Data Policy and Why It’s a Problem

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In preparation for the revamping of our Open Data Policy Guidelines, we reviewed all twenty-three  of the current local (city, county and state) open data policies on the books since their debut in 2006. These “open data policies” ranged in form from government administrative memos ordering the release of “high-value” datasets to legislation calling for open data policy planning to the newest member of the open data policy family, South Bend, Indiana’s executive order. Our main takeaway: There has been a lot of copying and pasting amongst policies, confusion on common open data terminology, and missed opportunities for information disclosure, but best practices are emerging.

Copying and pasting boilerplate legislative language is as old as law itself. In fact, legal precedent is built on throwbacks, edits, and remixes. The modern day copying and pasting feature has served as a technological blessing in legal matters that require a high level of repetition, such as producing demand letters for common legal claims, or, for one of Sunlight’s favorite exercises of individual rights, completing a public records or freedom of information request. However, when copying and pasting enters more nuanced areas of law, such as contract or legislation drafting, significant complications can arise. Without the proper edits or engaged collaborative thinking required in policy drafting, the ever tempting copy/paste model falls short. Below we explore just how borrowed open data legislative language thus far has been and examples of where it’s been the least helpful.

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New Louisville Open Data Policy Insists Open By Default is the Future

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On Tuesday, October 15, 2013, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced the signing of an open data policy executive order in conjunction with his compelling talk at the 2013 Code for America Summit. In nonchalant cadence, the mayor announced his support for complete information disclosure by declaring, "It's data, man." What's more is this was one of three open data policies signed into law over the last week, the others being California’s West Sacramento and Oakland policies. (For the complete view, see our map of growing policies here.)

The Louisville policy is unique in that hits many of the Sunlight Foundation's Open Data Policy Guidelines rarely touched upon by others, including a strong "open by default" provision, and, like South Bend, IN, roots its basis for affecting the transparency of information disclosure firmly in legal precedent, in this case, the Kentucky Open Meetings and Open Records Act. Doing so further empowers it's "open by default" status. The Louisville policy also provides a clear series of checks and balances to insure information is disclosed by calling for (1) the creation of a comprehensive inventory supported by the letter of the law itself (which we have only seen in the 2013 U.S. federal policy thus far — and which has not yet been implemented), (2) a yearly open data report, and (3) built-in review of the policy itself for the ever-changing information and technology landscape ahead. We have broken out the significance and mechanics of Louisville's policy that support information disclosure further below.

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Announcing the Open Data Policy Guidelines, Version 2.0

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As more communities recognize the power and possibilities of sharing public data online, there is an increasing need to articulate what it means to open data -- and how to create policies that can not only support these efforts, but do so in a sustainable and ambitious way. To this end, we are releasing the second version of Sunlight’s Open Data Policy Guidelines. Originally authored last summer and informed by the great work of our peers and allies, the Guidelines are a living document created to help define the landscape of what open data policies can and should do. For this latest version, we’ve reordered and slightly rephrased the Guidelines’ 32 provisions for clarity. We’ve also grouped them into three categories as a way of demonstrating that open data policies can define What Data Should Be Public, How to Make Data Public and How to Implement Policy.

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