Sunlight Foundation Issues New Open Data Best Practices


Earlier this week, the Sunlight Foundation released version 2.0 of its Open Data Policy Guidelines. Sunlight’s guidelines are excellent and informative, and arrive just as New York State is issuing a new open data Handbook.


Sunlight splits its guidelines into 3 logical sections:

  1. What data should be made public.
  2. How to make data public.
  3. How to implement policy.

In all, Sunlight lists 32 provisions. This is a valuable document and we’re glad to see Sunlight is updating it annually. For Version 3.0 , we have a couple of recommendations:

First, try to reduce the key recommendations to 15 or so, and create a detailed addendum or “step by step” section that can include dozens or hundreds of very specific recommendations.

Second, we’d like to see  a stronger, more explicit made between Freedom of Information Laws and open data initiatives.  One of the key 15 provisions should be a one strike and you’re in policy, under which data sets released all or in part via a FOIL request should be under FOIL should be uploaded (in a machine-readable format) to the open data portal. Instead of a lengthy internal review to prognosticate which datasets users want to see on a data portal, recognize that when someone files a FOIL request, they are telling you what data they want to see. There’s no need to make opening data more complicated than that.

Good job Sunlight, we will certainly make sure that New York State ITS and the members of the NYC Transparency Working Group get copy of these guidelines, and encourage them to read it.