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Oct. 23, 2012 9:30 am

Can government be too open? Gun permit applicants to sue city over released identities

Not everyone's happy about the city's Department of Licenses & Inspection's (L&I) new transparency push.

A screencap of the Licenses & Inspections map that plotted gun permit appeals. (Photo via philly.com)

Updated 10:29 a.m. to add a comment from Chief Data Officer Mark Headd.

Not everyone’s happy about the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspection‘s (L&I) new transparency push.

In August, L&I revealed a new website, along with an interactive map that liberated tons of L&I data, like housing code violations, demolition permits and — here’s where it gets sticky — gun permit application appeals.

Dozens of gun permit applicants plan on suing the city for publishing information about their application, including their names and addresses, the Daily News reports. L&I spokeswoman Maura Kennedy says the data was released to help citizens hold the city accountable.

The Daily News writes:

But the data dump, even if well-intentioned, raises the question: Can there be too much government transparency?

Lawrence and other gun owners had their information published around the world after a Philadelphia magazine blog, The Philly Post, reported on L&I’s new web app and the high-traffic Drudge Report linked to the story. The Philly Post redacted the names and addresses after L&I removed them from its site.

Police asked L&I to pull the information down because details about why a person wants to carry a gun, combined with his name and location, could make him a target of any criminal with Internet access, said Lt. Ray Evers, a police spokesman.

Read the whole story here.

We asked Chief Data Officer Mark Headd if he had any thoughts about the issue. While he couldn’t comment on the specific issue because the L&I map preceded his time with the city, he said in an email that he wanted to stress L&I spokeswoman Kennedy’s comment about the importance of open data:

We’re at the beginning of the city’s open data effort, and I firmly believe that publishing open data is foundational for transparent government. My goal is to make Philly’s open data program the envy of the nation. No foolin.

But we can’t do that without a broadly held, deeply seated belief within city government that open data matters. You hear that belief when you talk to the Mayor, and when you talk to the people that work for him, like Maura [Kennedy]. That’s why it will work in Philly.

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Juliana Reyes

Juliana Reyes began as lead reporter at Technical.ly Philly in July 2012. Previously, she was a city services beat reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News, as part of a project called “It’s Our Money.” She is learning to drive, learning to bike (in the city) but is an expert at taking SEPTA. She grew up in North Jersey and Manila, Philippines but she left the tropics for Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in linguistics. She now lives in West Philly.

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Comments

  1. MeetMe Inc. and 27 other local firms named on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 list [LINKS] — Technically Philly / November 16, 2012

    [...] Class-action lawsuit looming against city in gun-owner Web snafu [Philadelphia Daily News] “PHILADELPHIA could be facing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of gun owners who say the city violated their privacy by publishing their personal information and launching an interactive Web map that included clickable icons of revolvers over their homes.” Find our previous coverage of this issue here. [...]

  2. City budget visualization app removes specific city employee salary information — Technically Philly / February 4, 2013

    [...] out that these steps forward and backward with the release of data — think also about how L&I second-guessed its release of gun permit rejections — show how communities are still jockeying for what is acceptable and what is off limits. [...]

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