Cities hold considerable information, including details about the daily lives of residents and employees, maps of critical infrastructure, and records of internal deliberations. Cities are beginning to realize that this information has economic and civic value. The responsible release of city information can result in greater efficiency and innovation in the public and private sector. New services are cropping up that leverage open city data to great effect. Activist groups and residents are also placing increasing pressure on state and local government to be more transparent.

As a consequence, cities are beginning to open their data in a way that has never been seen before. But there has been little research into the growing area of municipal open data. Scholarly and media attention has focused at the federal level toward the activities of the National Security Agency (“NSA”), the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), and the White House. Despite the attention given to federal agencies, most personally-identifiable data is collected much closer to home, by the governments of the cities where we live, work, and play.

This article is a cross-disciplinary assessment of an open municipal government system. We are a team of researchers in law, computer science, information science, and urban planning that worked hand-in-hand with the City of Seattle, Washington to understand its current procedures around data processing from each of our disciplinary perspectives. Based on this empirical work, we have generated a set of recommendations to help the city manage risk latent in opening its data.