Open Data Is Not Open for Business

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How on earth can Open Data restore trust in government if the governments publishing their own Open Data won’t even accept responsibility for the quality of what they publish and ask all of us to accept unlimited liability if they are sued?

Let me share with you some examples:

Chicago: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/narr/foia/data-disclaimer.html

RESERVATION OF RIGHTS

The City reserves the right to discontinue availability of content on this website at any time and for any reason. The City reserves the right to claim or seek to protect any patent, copyright, trademark, or other intellectual property rights in any of the information, images, software, or processes displayed or used at this website. If the City claims or seeks to protect any intellectual property rights in any of the information, images, software, or processes displayed or used at this website, then this website will so indicate on the webpage on or from which such information, images, software, or processes are accessed. These Terms of Use do not grant anyone any title or right to any patent, copyright, trademark or other intellectual property rights that the City may have in any of the information, images, software, or processes displayed or used at this website.

INDEMNITY

To the fullest extent permitted by law, any user of the data provided at this website shall indemnify and hold harmless the City from any claim, loss, damage, injury, or liability of any kind (including, without limitation, incidental and consequential damages, court costs, attorney’s fees and costs of investigation), that arises directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from that user’s use of this data, including any secondary or derivative use of the information provided herein. Every user of this data also specifically acknowledges and agrees to have an immediate and independent obligation to defend the City from any claim that may fall within this indemnification provision, even if the allegations are or may be groundless, false or fraudulent, which obligation arises at the time such claim is tendered to the user by the City and continues at all times thereafter.

“discontinue availability of content on this website at any time and for any reason.”

Are you kidding me? That isn’t the kind of clause I expect to read from a major city in a major Democracy.

Dear Chicago, your Open Data isn’t an asset if you won’t guarantee its availability, 24/7, 99.999% of the time. We the people are not interested in your unequivocal right to take down public data assets, at your whim, which we paid you taxes to put up. That’s not Open Data.

Here’s another one from Palo Alto, California: http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/gov/depts/it/open_data/terms_of_use.asp

F. LIMITATION OF LIABILITY

  1. The City, its officials, officers, and employees will not be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential or special damages (including, without limitation, loss of use, time or data, inconvenience, commercial loss, lost profits or savings, or the cost of computer equipment and software), to the full extent that liability may be disclaimed by law, or for any third party claim against the User.
  2. The City, its officials, officers, and employees will not be responsible for any claim, including any claim by a third party, for any liability, loss or damage that may arise in connection with any erroneous information contained in the Data, including the Derivative Work.

G. INDEMNITY

  1. To the full extent permitted by law, the User will indemnify, defend at his/her sole cost and expense, and hold harmless the City, its officials, officers, and employees from and against any claim, injury, liability, loss or damage of any kind, nature and description (including, without limitation, incidental and consequential damages, court cost, attorney’s fees and costs of investigation), that may arise, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from the User’s download of and use of the Data, including the Derivative Work. The User’s obligation to indemnify, defend and hold harmless the City arises, even if the claim may be groundless, false or fraudulent; the obligation will arise at the time the City tenders the claim to the User and continues at all times thereafter.

Dear Palo Alto, we have to hold you harmless for the data you want us to rely on?

Cities and States around the World,

Let me make this clear for everyone. You are the Government. We pay you to be responsible. It is our data you are publishing. It has taken you 200 years to figure out how to publish it so we can use it. Open Data isn’t your private preserve of data that you are now providing to us through state-issued hunting and fishing licenses.

We expect you to stand behind what you publish, to take responsibility and to invest the resources necessary to make sure it is as accurate and timely as possible. When you tell us you don’t take responsibility for what you publish and you pass legal liability to us, we understand you are publishing garbage that you wouldn’t even rely on and use. Because if it was valuable you would accept responsibility and empower us to use it without constraint.

And until the license terms are changed Open Data is Not Open for Business and it is not improving transparency and democracy.

I call on all Open Data publishers to amend their license terms.


AdlerSteven Adler (@DataGov) is the chief information strategist for IBM. He is an expert in data science and an innovator who has developed several billion-dollar-revenue businesses in the areas of data governance, enterprise privacy architectures, and Internet insurance. He has advised governments and large NGOs on open government data, data standards, privacy, regulation, and systemic risk. He developed and leads the Open by Default Community, is co-chair of the W3C Data on the Web Best Practices Working Group, and co-chair of the XMILE System Dynamics Technical Committee at OASIS.

One thought on “Open Data Is Not Open for Business

  1. As a retired professionnal official statistician I agree with that. I would add that Open data propagandits should not ask for openning of every dataset, but only for those that properly fit for a clearly spelled range of purposes. Most of the time the datasets fit an initial internal purpose and satisfy those who created and manage it and rarely more, specially in developing countries. Upgrading the quality so as to grant wider access and use is often very costly.

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