Federal Data Should Be Open To Public, Lawmakers Say
Apr 15, 2016 08:53 AM EDT
Data that are collected by the federal government should be open and accessible to public by default, according to a group of lawmakers.
A new bill to be presented to the senate would require federal agencies to have their data accessible to the public using a "modern, open and electronic format." These data will be stored on the Data.gov website, according to an article released by Open Sources.
This bill which the officials call as "Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary Government Data Act," or the "OPEN Government Data Act" aims to codify US President Barack Obama's 2013 executive order which is to have all federal state agencies share the data in a machine-readable format.
According to House Sen. Brian Schatz at a discussion in Washington on Thursday, agencies these days just release data using virtual documents wherein the searcher of the information is expected to do their own digging. This means that the federal data is "theoretically available to the public, but is not meaningfully available to the public," Shcatz said, according to Nextgov.
This new legislation is sponsored by Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX). While Senators Schatz (D-HI) and his colleague Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) introduced the OPEN Government Data Act to the Senate.
In a statement said by Hudson Hollister in the Data Coalition website, "When government information is expressed as open data, it can be republished for better transparency outside government, analyzed for better management within government and automated for cheaper reporting to government." He added, "Our Coalition members' technologies can do all those things, but only if information is expressed as open data instead of disconnected documents." Hollister is the executive director of Data Coalition.
One of the federal agencies that will be covered by this bill will include the Education Department. The department shares data about its student performance and college tuition used for "College Scorecard." These are used by the students to compare colleges and universities before they enroll.
All heads of different agencies will require to keep an inventory of all their data that shows any assets "created, collected, under the control or direction, or maintained by the agency." All agencies' heads will collaborate with the Office of Management and Budget to do this.
However, even though this bill will require all data to be open to public, it would still allow agencies to withold any data that would "harm a specific, articulable interes protected by law" or that is not open for sharing.
But a clause in the bill says that "when deciding whether to withold information, the public's interest in access to information should be weighed against a specific harm likely caused by its release. When the interests are equal, openness should prevail."