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


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

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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