Brief Read: OPEN Government Data Act

One of the pillars of the Creative Commons movement is championing #OpenData, and late last year, the US Government took a sizeable step toward that end. In December of last year, Congress passed the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act. So what exactly does that mean for the American people? Three things: Access to Data, Nonpartisan Oversight, & Calibrations.

Access to Data

The language from the bill reads as follows: “(Sec. 5) This bill requires government data assets made available by federal agencies to be published as machine-readable data. When not otherwise prohibited by law, and to the extent practicable, the data must be available: (1) in an open format that does not impede use or reuse and that has standards maintained by a standards organization; and (2) under open licenses with a legal guarantee that the data be available at no cost to the public with no restrictions on copying, publication, distribution, transmittal, citing, or adaptation.”

This means that the federal government is required to release data that is not bound by safety or confidentiality restraints to the public in a format that is not encrypted and free of charge. Further, the data is required to carry an open license!

Nonpartisan Oversight

In the bill is a provision for a nonpartisan Chief Data Officer to be appointed within the various government agencies (think Department of Labor, or Department of Education) that are now required to release their data. The White House will also create a Chief Data Officer Council that will be comprised of these officers so that they can collectively create some “best practices” for storing and sharing their data.


In order to make sure that the data is reaching the public in the way that the lawmakers intended, the Government Accountability Office will be putting its name to good use by being responsible for holding the agencies accountable. The office will do so by conducting studies on both how the agencies are releasing their data, and how the public is using the data that they can now access.

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