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Selected Readings on Open Data Legislation and Policy

Outlining the Open Data Ecosystem

Posted on 3rd of June 2020 by Danuta Egle

Selected Readings on Open Data Legislation and Policy
Selected Readings on Open Data Legislation and Policy


Amid increasingly pressing demands for information pertaining to public health, government response, and administrative decision-making processes during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for comprehensive and collaborative open data initiatives becomes ever apparent. In March, The GovLab released a Call for Action outlining needs and opportunities for creating a data infrastructure and ecosystem for responding to the pandemic and other emerging threats. In the subsequent months, we have collected dozens of examples of public and private actors establishing data collaboratives, leveraging open and other data sources, to support public health and safety in a Living Repository of Data4COVID19.

As part of a larger data infrastructure and ecosystem, however, such public and private partnerships often grow fragmented or unsustainable without effective open data legislation. Where federally mandated open data policy can only reach so far, municipal and state governments may benefit from the sharing and functional use of local open government data. To maximize the public interest value of collected data assets and to balance the interests of resource-constrained city and state governments, successful open data initiatives publish with purpose and develop maturity models for open data expansion. Successful open data legislation advances operationalized, accountable, and administrable policy in its adaptation to the unique demands of each state and municipality.

To aid in the development and feasible implementation of open data legislation, this curated reading list examines institutional proposals and legislative examples to guide the design of comprehensive open data laws. These materials offer an outline of the founding (and evolving) principles of open data, principles of open access and information, assessment tools, institutional practices, privacy risks and strategy, guidelines for fostering public-private partnerships, and maturity and sustainability models. Although this literature review does not encompass all successful examples of open data initiatives and proposals, it serves to introduce a preliminary framework for analyzing open data impact and expansion. In the subsequent weeks, the Open Data Policy Lab will also share a model open data legislation checklist tool to present our findings and recommendations.



Open Data Charter International Open Data Charter Principles — presents the six Charter principles developed in 2015 and adopted by governments, civil society, and research experts to identify uniform norms and goals of publishing data.

UK Cabinet Office G8 Open Data Charter and Technical Annex — details the five G8 agreed-upon principles of the Open Data Charter and their implementation in a set of comprehensive tasks.

OECD Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy & Transborder Flows of Personal Data — enumerates definitions, recommendations, and principles concerning the protection of privacy in the release of open data.

Mark D. Wilkinson et al. The FAIR Guiding Principles for Scientific Data Management and Stewardship — offers findings supporting an improved infrastructure supporting the reuse of scholarly data, referred to collectively as the FAIR Principles, in an analysis of the rationales behind such principles and examples of their effective administration.

Sunlight Foundation Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information — lists and explains the open data principles promulgated by a conference of government advocates in Sebastopol, California, in 2007, which organizers eventually developed into a comprehensive set of Guidelines for Open Data Policies in 2013, fostering an institutionalized ecosystem of open data policy.

UN General Assembly Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics — a 2014 resolution providing ten principles to ensure the quality, protection, and accessibility of government data in response to the growing demand for openness and transparency in an increasingly interconnected international landscape.

UN High-Level Committee on Management Personal Data Protection and Privacy Principles — introduces a set of principles to facilitate the creation of uniform standards for the protection of personal privacy in the collection and processing of data across the UN System Organizations.


U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, National Commission for the Protection of Biomedical and Behavioral Subjects The Belmont Report: Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects in Research— identifies basic ethical principles, such as informed consent and risk-benefit assessment, underlying the conduct of research involving human subjects, presented in its entirety as a recommendation for the protection of personal data and information.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, Cybersecurity Division The Menlo Report: Ethical Principles Guiding Information and Communication Technology Research — presents a framework of ethical guidelines for computer and information security research, applying the guidelines of the Belmont Report to the domain of information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Ana Cavoukian The 7 Foundational Principles: Implementation and Mapping of Fair Information Practices— provides guidance on the application of the seven principles of “Privacy by Design,” specifically looking to the application of fair information principles in various technologies, business operations, physical architectures, and networked infrastructure.


Open Data Charter Open Data Charter Measurement Guide— a comprehensive toolkit featuring five useful open data measurement tools, in addition to case studies and analyses of each of the six International Open Data Charter principles (see above).

Merlin Chatwin & Jean-Noé Landry at Open Data Charter & Open North Making Cities Open by Default: Lessons From Open Data Pioneers — suggests six considerations for the feasible and administrable implementation of “open by default” policies in city governments by looking at examples across various jurisdictions.

Open Data Charter Publishing with Purpose: Open Data Charter 2018 Strategy — outlines a prioritization approach to publishing open government data to maximize the utility and accessibility of the most vital government data sets while accommodating governments’ constrained resources and capacities.

GovLab Periodic Table of Open Data’s Impact Factors — details the enabling conditions and disabling factors that often determine the impact of open data initiatives, focusing primarily on defining problem and demand, capacity and culture, partnerships, risks, and governance as replicable components of open data policy.


Erica Finkel at DataSF Open Data Release Toolkit — a San Francisco County toolkit providing uniform and operationalized definitions in open data policy, guidance on navigating and responding to existing regulations and privacy laws, and recommendations on minimizing risk in the release of open data.

Anders Friis-Christensen & Jean-Paul Triaille at Joint Research Center, European Commission JRC Data Policy — explores substantive and implementation principles for the responsible and transparent publishing of open government data across Member States represented in the European Commission, in accordance with the International Open Data Charter and the EU’s current regulatory framework protecting user privacy and data rights.


Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) City of Seattle: Open Data Risk Assessment (see app. B for Private Maturity Assessment; app. C for Model Open Data Benefit-Risk Assessment) — in a privacy assessment of Seattle’s open data program, offering models for 1) developing a sustainable open data framework that continues to mature and expand, and 2) assessing the necessity and risk of data sets in the City’s open inventory.

UN Global Pulse Data Innovation for Development Guide: Risks, Harms and Benefits Assessment Tool — recommending a Level 1 and Level 2 assessment guide to document and consider the impact of the benefits and risks associated with published open government data sets, measuring the magnitude, significance, and likelihood of both positive and negative impact of data release.

Ben Green at al. at Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society Open Data Privacy — offering a risk-benefit, process-oriented approach to sharing and protecting municipal data under existing and forthcoming open data initiatives across the U.S., examining privacy risks associated with metadata and aggregate compilations of de-identified data sets.


High Level Expert Group on Business-to-Government Data Sharing, European Commission Towards a European Strategy on Business-to-Government Data Sharing for the Public Interest — proposes a scalable, responsible, and sustainable business-to-government EU strategy that meets policy, legal, and funding needs for growing public interest-driven open data initiatives.

William Hoffman et al. at World Economic Forum Data Collaboration for the Common Good: Enabling Trust and Innovation Through Public-Private Partnerships — presents evidence supporting the importance and critical enablers of public-private data collaboration, fostering innovation for public good while balancing the interests and rights of individuals.


World Wide Web Foundation Open Data Barometer: Leaders Edition — tracks the performance of thirty governments’ concrete commitments to implement and champion open data, assessing countries’ open data initiatives along three critical principles: open by default, data infrastructure, and publishing with purpose.

Danny Lammerhirt et al. at Open Knowledge International Global Open Data Index: State of Open Government Data in 2017 — provides a comprehensive account of today’s international open data landscape, with technical and policy recommendations to align public institutions’ data with the needs of civil society groups and citizens.

Leigh Dodds & Andrew Newman at Open Data Institute Open Data Maturity Model: Assessing Your Open Data Publishing and Use — offers an assessment tool to monitor the publishing, consumption, and use of data by examining the maturity of open data policy in five domains: data management processes, knowledge and skills, customer support and engagement, and financial performance and strategic oversight.



OPEN Government Data Act (see Title II) (2019)

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (2015)

Digital Accountability & Transparency Act (DATA) (2014)

2015 Exec. Order: Promoting Private Sector Cybersecurity Information Sharing

2013 Exec. Order: Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information

Open Government Directive (2009)


Seattle, WA 2016 Exec. Order and 2018 Open Data Plan

New York, NY 2019 Open Data Law(s)

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