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Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

I thought it would be fun to compile a list of all the various reasons we’ve heard for not publishing data…

  1. What if terrorists use the data?
  2. It probably breaks data protection or something
  3. People will find out our data is a bit crap
  4. It’s too complicated for the public to understand
  5. It’s too complicated for you to understand
  6. It’s really big (100,000 of rows of data, oh my!)
  7. We might want to sell it later
  8. We think we might not own some of it
  9. We already make the information available via an internal website so why duplicate effort?
  10. We’ll get spam
  11. Our software has no API (because it’s enterprise, unlike that crappy interoperable stuff)…
    1. tough, you can’t have it
    2. ..and the SQL is too difficult to understand, it’s all like “table233.fieldA3”
    3. ..we’ll have to pay the people who make the software a fortune to get the data
  12. We’re just too busy with project X (then project Y…)

And the special new category for facilties & equipment sharing data:

  1. If people know about our stuff we’ll get people ring us up. We don’t want people bothering us.
  2. We don’t want other people using our stuff because they’ll break it
  3. We don’t want other people touching our precious things because we think our stuff should be just for us

Some of these are reasonably valid, as in the case of not being confident you hold the copyright, or the spam comment is legit but I find it hard to give it much credit.

Any I should add?

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12 Responses

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  1. Nick Jackson says

    “We can’t think of a use for the data, so nobody else will be able to.”

  2. Baden Appleyard says

    Hi Chris,

    Good List… below are some I have dealt with recently in the enviro-data space in Australia. Acknowledging that the repeat some of yours…

    1. I have a research paper that I am yet to write and publish, so I’m not releasing my data until then.
    2. I have to collect more data before I can release the data
    3. We are concerned about data quality
    4. We don’t want a consultant (we have engaged) to take this data for free and use it for their other clients
    5. We have legislative restrictions on the release of this data
    6. This data carries privacy restrictions that mean we cannot release it (where it is more than arguable that no privacy restriction exists, or where they have failed to consider anonymising the data, which may still provide an important resource for some).
    7. Its ours and nobody else’s
    8. Our funding agreements prohibit release of the data
    9. The IP is owned by someone else
    10. It was not collected with distribution outside the department in mind.
    11. We would release it but it has to go through our departmental process first (only to discover that there is no departmental process)
    12. We cannot apply an open licence because open licences are not permitted in our government policy (where in that case the Auditor-General lamented that there was in fact no government policy on licensing and information management. That was put to the agency whom responded by saying that it still meant that an open licence wasn’t permitted)
    13. We don’t want people to commercialise this data or re-distribute it because we are the point of truth.
    14. We don’t want to release this data under an open licence (that permits commercial reuse) because we don’t want commercial operators to sell it, where we provide it for free.
    15. We don’t want to release this data under an open licence because we might want charge for it. (despite the fact that the department was externally funded to collect it and the costs already recovered)
    16. We don’t know whom owns the copyright
    17. We don’t know what licence to choose / don’t want to apply a copyright licence because we don’t think copyright subsists in the data
    18. We don’t want to release the data because we are building a new portal for this and related datasets (restrictively licensed) and we want people to be able to download it from our new portal (where the portal wasn’t launched for 12 months)
    19. If we release the data it will embarrass our minister / director general / chief executive / secretary (under most amended FOI law in Australia, embarrassment to government is not a valid reason to refuse release)
    20. The community wouldn’t understand the data/interpret it correctly if we released it, therefore we will only licence it restrictively to hydrologist/surveyor/scientist (insert profession)
    21. We won’t release it because we don’t have a longer term budget to maintain updates to the data.
    22. We won’t release it because it’s out of date
    23. We won’t release it because the metadata is inaccurate
    24. We won’t release it / only restrictively licence because we have agreements with farmers that we won’t identify them. (where the data was collected with funding from government)
    25. We can’t openly licence because we are restricted by nested IP belonging to the (Trading Fund)
    26. We don’t want to release because the data may be used to ground a patent application
    27. You can have the data but you will have to make an FOI application. (subsequently, the applicant received the data under FOI but it was released without a licence, and accordingly defaulted to all rights reserved Crown copyright)
    28. Before we release it / license it to you, we want to know what you want the data for.
    29 Before we release it, we want to know how much you intend to make from it, so that we can determine an appropriate licence fee.

    • Christopher Gutteridge says

      Ah, I seem to recall an even more annoying of your #1 — I might want to write a paper about it. One day. Maybe.

  3. Simon De Sousa says

    Baden… Point 3 really boils my potatoes!!!!

  4. Simon De Sousa says

    Or “we are building our own app with the data and we don’t want developers beating us to the punch”

  5. Alvaro says

    The ones I’ve got:

    – “[Other people] are already working on a portal to publish it” (no, they weren’t)
    – “People may misinterpret the data, leading them to false impressions” re. data about public safety.

  6. Christopher Gutteridge says

    I remembered another one; “you’ve asked for A, B & C. C isn’t available so we won’t give you anything at all.”

  7. Baden Appleyard says

    Hi All, .. Thanks for the comments.. Yeah Simon… the “we are developing our own app” is a common one too! Particularly in the transport space…


  8. Christopher Gutteridge says

    Another one is systems not designed for bulk exports, just small reports.

  9. Christopher Gutteridge says

    One I forgot;

    “I don’t object personally, but someone above me would probably object”.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Enterprise Disasterware – Southampton ECS Web Team linked to this post on August 2, 2012

    […] post is in some ways a follow up to Chris’s previous post Specifically: Our software has no API (because it’s enterprise, unlike that crappy interoperable […]

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