Civic News
Data / Municipal government

City of Philadelphia settles gun permit open data snafu for $1.4M

Consider it a costly growing pain, if you will, of the city's still young open data policy.

City Hall. (Photo by Flickr user Michlt, used under a Creative Commons license)
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the date of the data release. The gun permit appeal data was released in August 2012. (7/24/14, 11:59 a.m.)

The City of Philadelphia settled a lawsuit over an open data release for $1.4 million, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Information about gun permit appeals is the dataset in question. More than 3,000 people sued the city in a class-action lawsuit after it released data on those who had appealed a denied gun permit.

The city’s Licenses & Inspections Department released the data in August 2012 as part of a broader transparency push, where it published data like housing code violations, demolition permits and vacant lot licenses. The city took the gun permit data down after the Police Department asked them to.

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The lawsuit is a growing pain, if you will, of the city’s young open data policy. What data should and should not be public is something the city’s new Chief Data Officer, Tim Wisniewski, is thinking about.

For one, “open data is not Right-to-Know,” Wisniewski said, when asked about the issue earlier this month. He’s referring to the state law, which requires governments to fulfill data requests.

There are some datasets, like data that details all the registered voters in the city, that you may be able to get through Right-to-Know but that the city should not publish, he argued.

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