The Senate has passed legislation that would require agencies to make more data available to the public in a machine-readable format.
The Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary Government Data Act, or the OPEN Government Act, mandates federal agencies, when “not otherwise prohibited by law,” make data available in a way that does not “impede use or reuse.” It must also be free to the public, “with no restrictions on copying, publication, distribution, transmittal, citing, or adaptation.”
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The OPEN Government Data Act is an essential complement to the Freedom of Information Act reform that passed this summer. Together, the legislation would provide statutory structure and mandatory requirements for open and transparent government in the 21st century.
If passed and implemented, the two laws put in place a series of provisions and structures that will enable Congress, journalists, nonprofits, academics, private-sector companies and the public to hold future administrations accountable. We and our allies know that executive orders and memorandums can be undone with the stroke of a pen. Sunshine laws cannot be so easily untangled nor dismissed.
For this reason, we both celebrate the Senate’s unanimous endorsement of the law and hope that the U.S. House will quickly move to re-introduce the bill in the 115th Congress and work across the aisle to enact it within the first week of public business.
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