Open Data Policy Guidelines

The Sunlight Foundation created this living set of open data guidelines to address: what data should be public, how to make data public, and how to implement policy.

The provisions are not ranked in order of priority and do not address every question one should consider when preparing a policy, but are a guide to answer the question of what an open data policy can and should do in striving to create a government data ecosystem where open data is the default.

Setting the default to open means that the government and parties acting on its behalf will make public information available proactively and that they’ll put that information within reach of the public (online), without barriers for its reuse and consumption. Setting the default to open is about living up to the potential of our information, about looking at comprehensive information management and making determinations that fall in the public interest.

Click on a guideline below to read more and see examples of matching language from our Open Data Policy Collection!

What Data Should Be Public

  1. Proactively release government information online
  2. Reference and build on existing public accountability and access policies
  3. Build on the values, goals and mission of the community and government
  4. Create a public, comprehensive list of all information holdings
  5. Specify methods of determining the prioritization of data release
  6. Stipulate that provisions apply to contractors or quasi-governmental agencies
  7. Appropriately safeguard sensitive information

How to Make Data Public

  1. Mandate data formats for maximal technical access
  2. Provide comprehensive and appropriate formats for varied uses
  3. Remove restrictions for accessing information
  4. Mandate data be explicitly license-free
  5. Charge data-creating agencies with recommending an appropriate citation form
  6. Require publishing metadata
  7. Require publishing data creation processes
  8. Mandate the use of unique identifiers
  9. Require code sharing or publishing open source
  10. Require digitization and distribution of archival materials
  11. Create a central location devoted to data publication and policies
  12. Publish bulk data
  13. Create public APIs for accessing information
  14. Optimize methods of data collection
  15. Mandate ongoing data publication and updates
  16. Create permanent, lasting access to data

How to Implement Policy

  1. Create or appoint oversight authority
  2. Create guidance or other binding regulations for implementation
  3. Incorporate public perspectives into policy implementation
  4. Set appropriately ambitious timelines for implementation
  5. Create processes to ensure data quality
  6. Ensure sufficient funding for implementation
  7. Create or explore potential partnerships
  8. Mandate future review for potential changes to this policy