Connecting state and local government leaders

Seattle Embraces ‘Open by Preference’ Model for Releasing City Data

Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington Max Herman /


Connecting state and local government leaders

Municipal departments are being directed to consider privacy and security concerns when releasing datasets.

In an executive order issued on Friday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray directed all municipal agencies in the City of Goodwill to follow a new open data policy that makes their data “open by preference.” That, Murray’s directive states, means that city departments will open up their data after screening for privacy and security considerations.

“This Executive Order encourages more transparency between the City and outside partners, and ensures we develop tools that provide critical insights for the public on what’s happening in our city,” Murray said on Friday, according to his office’s announcement.

GeekWire reports:

The executive order asks all cabinet-level city departments to provide a certain amount of data in a format the public can understand. Each department will have an “open data champion” who will be accountable for maintaining an updated data catalog, with information that can be published in a machine-readable format.

Seattle’s open data program launched in 2010 with a portal,, which currently hosts more than 400 datasets. The city's data platform is provided by Seattle-based Socrata. Seattle aims to have 544 datasets available through the portal by the end of 2016, according to the mayor’s announcement.

To create its new open data policy, Washington state’s largest city has been collaborating with the University of Washington, the Sunlight Foundation and What Works Cities, an initiative funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies that helps municipal governments better leverage their data resources.

“With this policy, the City of Seattle is navigating the countervailing forces of transparency, privacy, and security, creating a path that promises to define the responsible release of municipal open data,” Jan Whittington, an assistant professor of urban design and planning who works at the University of Washington’s Tech Policy Lab, said in the city’s announcement.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty. (Photo by Max Herman /

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