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Trump signs law to open government documents to public scrutiny

President Donald J. Trump has signed the OPEN Government Data Act into law, theoretically making U.S. government documents more easy to access by the general public.

The act, which passed through both the House of Representatives and the Senate in what some describe as a “major bipartisan move,” requires federal agencies to make data that present no security concerns public by default.

OPEN is an acronym standing for “Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary.” The act was part of a broader set of laws, the Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (H.R. 4174).

Publication of given data under the act must be in a machine-readable format and available online. Government agencies are also required to appoint a chief data officer to handle compliance with the terms of the act.

Somewhat surprisingly, given that most of what the U.S. president supports is condemned, the signing of the act elicited fairly widespread support.

“Today is a historic day for the open data movement,” Sarah Joy Hays, acting executive director of the Data Coalition, said in a statement Monday. “The government-wide law will transform the way the government collects, publishes and uses non-sensitive public information.”

The Center for Data Innovation also praised the law, saying that “open data has enormous value for businesses, journalists, academics, civil society groups and even other government agencies. These organizations use the vast supply of data the federal government makes freely available in open formats online to develop innovative products and services, make important business decisions, conduct research, and ensure accountability and oversight in government.”

When the act will be implemented is another question given the current partial U.S. government shutdown.

Photo: Department of State

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