Thursday, February 5, 2009

ACM Releases Recommendations on Open Government

I'm at Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy today presenting on open access to court documents. Coincidentally, the ACM U.S. Public Policy Committee today released a statement on the broader theme of government transparency. (For you non-Computer-Science geeks, the ACM is the "Association for Computing Machinery -- the anachronistically named membership organization of which I used to be a card-carrying member). In their "Recommendations on Open Government" they lay out a set of guidelines for government entities who publish data online. The recommendations echo the suggestions in the excellent new paper, "Government Data and the Invisible Hand", published by several folks here at CITP. On the Freedom to Tinker blog, David Robinson commented on the announcement and the role that he and Ed Felten played in shaping the recommendations. In short, the committee recommends that the government focus on making machine-readable versions of their data easily available so that others can find innovative ways to present it. The recommendations include:

  • Data published by the government should be in formats and approaches that promote analysis and reuse of that data.
  • Data republished by the government that has been received or stored in a machine-readable format (such as as online regulatory filings) should preserve the machine-readability of that data.
  • Information should be posted so as to also be accessible to citizens with limitations and disabilities.
  • Citizens should be able to download complete datasets of regulatory, legislative or other information, or appropriately chosen subsets of that information, when it is published by government.
  • Citizens should be able to directly access government-published datasets using standard methods such as queries via an API (Application Programming Interface).
  • Government bodies publishing data online should always seek to publish using data formats that do not include executable content.
  • Published content should be digitally signed or include attestation of publication/creation date, authenticity, and integrity.
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