U.S. Federal Open Data Policy
The United States’s federal (executive branch) policies on open data have a history that dates back before the modern open government data movement. But the policies were first solidified on President Obama’s first full day in office with his Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government. Policy memoranda issued since then have walked back on early priorities and created new ones.
Circular A-1301, a Clinton administration memorandum effective July 15, 1994, might have been the earliest official policy statement asserting the public’s right to know through information technology. It read, “Because the public disclosure of government information is essential to the operation of a democracy, the management of Federal information resources should protect the public’s right of access to government information.” The memorandum itself was even made available on the Internet! But it was one policy among many in the late 1990s and early 2000s, such as the E-Government Act, the Information Quality Act, and Memorandum M-06-02, with overlapping ramifications on open data but no clear stance on open data as a concept itself. (See Who Needs to Know? by Patrice McDermott (Bernan Press, 2007) for more background on that time period.)
From 2009 to 2013 the Obama administration has issued four main policy documents regarding open data:
January 21, 2009. Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government (“the 2009 Memorandum”)
December 8, 2009. The Open Government Directive (“the Directive”, also known as OMB Memorandum M-10-06)
May 23, 2012. Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People (“the Digital Government Strategy”)
May 9, 2013. Memorandum on Open Data Policy—Managing Information as an Asset (“the Open Data Memorandum”, also known as M-13-13).
(The current policy is best understood by reading the policies in reverse chronological order, as each policy issues new priorities that take precedence over the previous. But to continue a focus of this book on the history of the open government data movement, the policies will be presented forward chronologically below.)