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Government Metadata Amicus Brief


Earlier this week, Subbaraman PLLC submitted an amicus brief (available here) on behalf of Public Record Media in the case of Webster v. City of Bloomington. Co-signing onto this brief are the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (of which I am a board member), and myself as Lead Organizer of Open Twin Cities.

One of the principal questions the court is considering in Webster v. Bloomington is whether access to digital metadata held by a government is governed by the Minnesota Data Practices Act. To the best knowledge of myself and the authors of the amicus brief, the nature of digital metadata has never been considered by a Minnesota court, nor has it been distinctly considered by the Minnesota legislature. As such, a decision in Webster v. Bloomington has the potential to set a legal precedent regarding digital metadata and the Data Practices Act - defining, in the absence of legislative action, the extent to which the public is able to access digital metadata held by governments in Minnesota.

It is my belief that digital metadata held by a government are government data based on the broad definition of “government data” in the Data Practices Act, the public access of which is governed by the permissive rules of access of the Data Practices Act. In the amicus brief submitted today, Public Record Media presents facts and an argument consistent with this belief.

It is also my belief that the open government and civic collaboration mission of Open Twin Cities relies on the broad and permissive ability of the public to access government information. The ability of the public to understand the problems faced by government and to work with government toward more effective and just solutions hinges on the public’s ability to access, analyze, and build upon the widest set of government data possible.

A decision by the court in Webster v. Bloomington that digital metadata is not ‘government data’ could close off public access to a broad and informative category of government data. Such a decision could hamper the ability of the public to be informed about its government and to work with its government. Such a decision could hamper the ability of Open Twin Cities to fulfil its mission. It is for these reasons that I have signed onto this week’s amicus brief as Lead Organizer of Open Twin Cities.

-Bill