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July 05, 2011


Chris Taggart

Totally agree about "mandating open, universal identifiers" -- these already exist thoughout the world in company numbers issued by company registers, so we (and the governments around the world) already have them -- that's the approach we've taken with http://OpenCorporates.com, and now have over 18 million companies around the world, including 6 US states, with more on the way.

These are in many many ways better than proprietary numbering systems:
1) It's an openly licensed database -- free for reuse
2) We haven't created a new set of IDs/URIs for the company (monopoly ID systems are just plan bad for the community), but ones based solely on the jurisdiction and company number, meaning that if you know the URI you know the jurisdiction and company number and vice versa
3) It's being built from the ground up which the help of the community, following the lead of OpenStreetMap, Wikipedia etc (we may have a long wait for governments around the world to act on this, and make no mistake this is a global issue).
3) Using company numbers is better than the ID methods used by proprietary ID systems as it is a link to the legal entity, which is pretty darned important when you want to sue, fine, or simply get information about it from an authoritative source

And while we'd like the the EPA and other organisations, including in other countries, to use the company numbers/ID systems when referring to them, we already matching federal supplier records, SEC records and IP data, as you suggest.

So, problem solved ;-)


It's great to see you posting about the DATA Act -- and naturally I'm also anxious to see it used as an opportunity to tackle the identifier problem. I'm optimistic on this score: Sunlight has had a chance to speak with Chairman Devaney, and he certainly understands the problem and wants to see it solved. I think you can look at the RATB's paper on award identifiers as a noncontroversial foray into this space -- it doesn't deal with quite the same issue, but it's a strong signal that they're thinking in these terms.

This part surprised me a bit, though:

Fifth, there is no authority in either the EO or the DATA bill to create pilot projects and iterate. We don’t understand the problem of inconsistent spending reporting well enough to design -- whether by the legislative or executive branch -- "the" system. Instead, we ought to be allowing small-scale pilots (potentially funded by prize-backed challenges) seeing what works, and trying again. Further, if the data is made available in machine-readable ways, new systems to make the data more transparent and useful can and will arise outside the government through crowsourced design and use. This will reduce the development costs while simultaneously allowing more designs to be explored. In the government, making large-scale “legacy” data systems interoperable is a hard problem that we are trying to retrofit without great expense. This requires more humility and the qualifications to try new policies, technologies, rules and standards. This isn't reflected in the legislation or in the composition and role of the Boards proposed. (We note that the UK’s Data Transparency Board includes a combination of government representatives and outside experts from corporations and academia, and would encourage the US government to consider a similar approach.)

While I agree that the composition of the FAST Board could use improvement (there's also the concern over sunsetting), I think the philosophy behind the bill is quite different from what you're describing here. More than anything, DATA represents a move away from prescriptive legislation like FFATA and toward a more agile oversight body that's less subject to political pressure. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. The FAST Board would be able to react more quickly and thoughtfully to the realities of the disclosure landscape. But advocates like ourselves could potentially have fewer levers for influencing its behavior. That's worrisome, but on balance I think it's worth a try.

Still, I'm confident that the specific concern you raise -- the ability to iterate and make course corrections -- is very much in line with the thinking of the people behind this bill. It's always risky to put your faith in well-meaning individuals rather than specific statutory language. But prescriptive legislation has proven to be a brittle approach to technology, and I believe in the vision of the folks who'll be staffing the FAST Board. I think the DATA Act is a worthy successor to FFATA.


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Is this an update from the The Data Protection Act 1998 commenced on 1 March 2000, with most of its provisions being effective from 24 October 2001. It replaced and broadened the Data Protection Act 1984. The purpose of the Act is to protect the rights and privacy of individuals, and to ensure that data about them are not processed without their knowledge and are processed with their consent wherever possible. subject to more stringent conditions on their processing than other personal data. I feel that LPC
understanding has not been utilized here and the judgment can go against local MP's.

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Totally agree on "procedures that require open, universal identifiers" - they already exist thoughout the world in the company issued by the company records for us (and world governments) have already - this is the approach we made with http:// OpenCorporates.com, and now has over 18 million businesses worldwide, including six U.S. states, with more to come.

These are in many ways much better than the proprietary numbering systems:

1) is a database under a free license - free for reuse

2) We have created a new IDS / URI of the company (a monopoly identification systems are just a bad plan for the Community), but are based solely on competence and the number of companies, that is, if you know you know the URI of the powers the number of the company, and vice versa

3) E 'built from the beginning that will help the Community in the footsteps of OpenStreetMap, Wikipedia, etc. (we may have to wait a long time the government around the world to act on this, and make no mistake, this is a global problem ).

3) The use of numbers in the company is better than the identification methods used in identification systems because it is a unique link to the legal person, which is important when you want to fucking go, well, or simply information for an authoritative source

And even if we wanted the EPA and other organizations, as in other countries, the company uses the numbers / identification systems, when it comes to those who already have a record similar to the Federal seller, SEC filings and IP data, as you suggests.

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The Department of Labor in partnership with the Department of Education announced two billion dollars in grants to support educational and career training programs for workers. Known as the “Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant” – or TAA CCCT inside the Beltway – the program is precedent setting in its magnitude of support for 21st century job skill training and for making the default-setting in grantmaking much more open.


Much in line with the thinking of the people behind such a bill.

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It is definitely an open reusable database.Great read.


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This aspect of our economy should benefit from greater transparency of information laws, allowing data that new standards are put in place for reporting on federal spending should be subject to public consultation.

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