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Today in OpenGov: Help us improve our census of open data in U.S. cities

Monday, June 20, 2016 11:47
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(Before It's News)

By The Sunlight Foundation

The Sunlight Foundation is taking on more responsibility for administering the next US City Open Data Census and would love your have ideas about  how we can improve it. Please check it out and send an email to the US City Open Data Census team or fill out our feedback survey.


  • U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told NBC news that the Justice Department would release a partial transcript of the perpetrator of the Orlando shooting’s call to 911, with his “pledges of allegiance to terrorist groups” — a reference to the Islamic State, aka Daesh — removed. [RealClearPolitics]
  • The edited 911 transcripts were released on Monday. Speaker Paul Ryan called for President Barack Obama to reverse the FBI’s decision to edit them prior to release. National Journal columnist Ron Fournier decried the editing as censorship, equating that action with propaganda. It’s fair to say the FBI is not being fully transparent with the public about what the man who murdered 49 Americans last week said to the Orlando police about it. [USA TODAY].
  • The Federal Communications Commission officially launched its new Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), which they’ve been prototyping this spring, building on work that began in the fall of 2014.  As Politico’s Morning Tech reported, the new system “automatically adjust to high-volume proceedings, and a public Application Programming Interface will give outside groups an easier way to submit and pull bulk comments. Users also will be able to search the text of comments, and the system will read the text out loud to enhance accessibility.” The Commission retired its legacy ECFS application at 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday, June 17, 2016, turning off the ancient comment system launched back in the early days of the World Wide Web in 1996 that crashed under the interest of millions of visitors and a few malicious trolls during the net neutrality debate in 2014. RIP.
  • As we noted last week, the IRS has published Form 990s online, putting a “goldmine of open data about nonprofits at your fingertips.” [Nonprofit Quarterly]
  • In its news release about the move, the IRS included an important caveat: the open data on Amazon’s servers only includes the 60% or so of Form 990 returns that are electronically filed with the IRS. “Both paper and electronically filed 990 returns will continue to have image files made and these files will continue to be available by DVD.” []
  • Federal Computer Week confirmed that the IRS would still be converting e-filed data into image files, along with Form 990 returns filed in print. We hope the IRS will work towards disclosing all Form 990s it receives as open data online. [FCW]
  • A new Harvard study from two former White House officials recommends that the United States be more transparent about disclosing newly discovered vulnerabilities in software, or “zero days,” and ban agencies purchasing knowledge about such vulnerabilities. [Fedscoop]
  • The U.S. House rejected a ban on warrantless surveillance of Americans. [ProPublica]
  • The Senate is considering a sentencing reform bill that would sort prisoners by risk score. Given reports of algorithmic bias on the basis of race, that approach could be deeply flawed in practice. [ProPublica]
  • The Wall Street Journal reviewed and reported on a confidential State Department document in which dozens of officials protested U.S. policy in Syria. [WSJ]
  • USA TODAY analyzed FBI data, police records and media reports and found that mass killings occur more often that the government reports. [USA TODAY]
  • People are using Playstations and Nintendo Wiis to access government website. [Verge]
  • Congress gave the nation a birthday present on the July 4th: an improved FOIA law. [Star Tribune]

State and Local

  • Public access and disclosure of police bodycam videos under state freedom of information laws has rapidly become a national flashpoint. While New York City has earned some praise for its proactive disclosure of some categories of data, when it comes to police video the New York Police Department continues to be downright “foggy on transparency.”  [New York Times]
  • Oakland, California has no police chief at present, after the third chief within a week was removed by Mayor Libby Schaaf. The city is reeling from a raft of disclosures and reporting about the police department’s systemic issues, including a sex scandal. [East Bay Express]
  • “Open data can’t go away anymore,” wrote Sunlight’s technical advisor Waldo Jaquith, announcing that he’s going to sunset the U.S. Open Data Institute on July 31.  [US Open Data]
  • The Oregon Supreme Court is considering how the state’s open meeting laws mean in 2016. [Bend Bulletin]
  • Lawrence Grodeska reflected on movements, voices and values in civic technology. [Medium]


  • The Global Editor’s Network announced the winners of the 2016 Data Journalism Awards at a ceremony in Vienna. ICIJ winning an award for the Panama Papers is no surprise, but it’s an important validation. The award for La Nacion’s open data work is also well deserved: their public accountability work in Argentina should be a global inspiration for data journalism. More subtly, an award for this project is a reminder that small newsrooms can and do create phenomenal data journalism, and an award for this one is a reminder that Buzzfeed News is publishing important journalism, subsidized by listicles and GIFs. [GEN]
  • Google data editor Simon Rogers, who directed the awards, reflected on what the winners tell us. []
  • Canada published a new draft national action plan on open government. [Open Canada]
  • Researcher danah boyd urged the public, in particularly civic-minded developers, organizations and governments that work with data, to “be careful what you code for.” [Medium]
  • Copenhagen needs more meaningful outcomes from its “data marketplace” than these planned projects. [TM Forum]


  • The 2016 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference (#LDTC16), hosted by the Committee on House Administration, will take place tomorrow, June 21, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium. [RSVP]

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We want to find and share the most important stories about open government around the world from the past 24 hours here. To do that, we’ll need YOUR help. Please send your tips and feedback at [email protected]. If you would like suggest an event, email us by 7 am on the Monday prior to the event.

The Sunlight Foundation is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike.


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