Siblings or silos: How do open data and FOIA work together? : Sunlight Foundation
ab1630's bookmarks 2018-06-30
"Last year, 28 U.S. cities published open data policies bringing the total to nearly 120 cities nationwide. This growth spurt has signaled a sweeping move from reactive responses to public records requests to systematically and proactively publishing open data. For most of the last 50 years, Freedom of Information Laws (FOI) have ensured that residents have access to information on government activities as a fundamental, democratic right. But now that many of these cities are “setting the default to open,” city staff are left guessing about how to balance these two varying but equally crucial channels for public access to information. From a research perspective, the relationship between FOI laws and open data policies begs the question: are the public information channels of open data and FOI law competitors or complements? Though both are channels for public transparency, they serve different functions: open data provides access to raw data or broadly applicable public information; public records meet specific, often time-sensitive needs, scoped and defined by individual data users. Understanding the relationship between open data and public records requests could help city staff better allocate internal resources in meeting these varying needs. City staff need to understand exactly when and why residents are still struggling to engage with public information and apply resources to improve the way open data and FOI laws work together. To that end, I’m working with the Sunlight Open Cities team to conduct new research that aims to answer three key questions about the relationship between open data and FOI: Does adopting an open data policy affect the volume of public record requests that cities receive?..."