back to article San Francisco dumps city data online

San Francisco is heaping raw government data onto the web in the hopes developers build iPhone apps for folks to complain about trees blocking their sidewalk and to Google restaurant health-code violations. The Bay city's freshly conjured website describes itself as a "central clearinghouse for datasets" published …


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  1. Jason Baziliauskas

    Very DNA.

    "rely on a person wandering into the local planning office to discover if their house is being demolished to make way for a new bypass." And even if they did it would be in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet in a disused toilet...

    You know the rest.

    Mines the coat with the electronic sub-ether device in the pocket.

  2. Mike S


    An iPhone app called iBurgh was recently written in Pittsburgh that allows someone to take a picture of a code violation and have it sent to the city's non-emergency response center (aka 311).

    The app embeds GPS data as well, so the 311 center has everything they need to open a ticket.

    For example, if there's a property in disrepair, this is an easy way for neighbors to report it to the city so that inspectors can write citations. It sounds Orwellian, but if you've ever had a neighbor that doesn't care about their property, this is a good thing.

  3. E 2

    Proper TLD?

    Should not a USA municipality use a .gov or .us TLD?

  4. RW

    Open formats

    The place I used to work had very dimwitted managers who actually believed in "the paperless office."

    I keep wondering what happens when they need an electronic document from 1996 that's in Wordperfect 6 format and has been stored on a diskette in a filing cabinet for the last 13 years.

    The truth of the matter is that important documents should be printed off using archival quality ink & paper rather than depending on electronic storage, subject as it is to many vicissitudes: programs that no longer support the file format, media that fail, you name it.

  5. ZenCoder

    @open formats ...

    On the other hand lets say you want to do research that requires access to those 13 yo documents ... would you rather search for them on a publicly database or be pointed to a warehouse full of boxes. Hopefully when the team of people you hire to sort through that mess comes across the ones you need it won't have been turned into a home for a family of rats, turned into pulp by damp conditions .... and even if you got those bases covered a good percentage of documents will be miss filed due to human error ... or some lazy temp.

    Maybe with competent staff and management you can keep those printed documents safe but with 1/100th the cost and effort you can keep the electronic versions safe.

  6. Mike Flugennock
    Big Brother

    Hot damn, let the circus begin

    I can just see it now: "Want to stalk your neighbor? There's an app for that!"

    Popcorn, anyone?

  7. Allan George Dyer

    Sorry, wrong article...

    I thought this was about another personal data leakage outrage.

    OTOH... what privacy protection do they have? "Report a pothole and have your identity stolen"?

    Mine's the one with the USB drive of complaint records in the pocket.

  8. lukewarmdog

    Make their own Apps?

    Seems to me they have the data and they even know they want people to be able to use it.

    A lot of time and expense has been spent getting the data into datasets and online.

    So, why not hire a programmer and do it in-house?

  9. Tom Paine

    Lots of related stuff going on

    As the article hints, this area's starting to explode lately. It's almost as if lots of smart experienced tech experts, rather than moan about the state of idiocracy and democratic disconnect, suddenly found themselves with time on their hands after 15 years of working 80 hour weeks...

    The granddaddy is of course, but looks interesting, too, if a little short of resources right now (judging by the number of "vandalised section, please help!" notes.)

    Any chance of a WIN! icon to go with FAIL next time the icons are refreshed?

  10. Ondrej Doubek
    Thumb Up


    I welcome any even so little sign of more transparency!

    There is a big difference between the protection of ones privacy and the overprotective hogging of data.

    @ Allan George Dyer: I don't get Your logic. Isn't that just a bit too paranoid?

    In Finland everyone's last tax report is public information. I can send a SMS with a persons name and address to a special number and get his tax amount and % back- which tells me what the persons taxable income was last year.

    I can already hear Your outcries...

    But step back once and think twice: what damage can You possibly do to me by knowing what I earn? I can't think of any... Really none! Neither would I know how to harm anyone else with such knowledge.

    So ask Yourself why You wouldn't want people to know. I think if You are ashamed of Your salary, or wealth in general, You probably can't feel You earned it, at least righteously, I guess.

    There is zero danger involved in most information revealed. Knowing how much is on my bank account wouldn't still give You the possibility to raid it if the banks security is tight. Knowing what car I drive doesn't give You more or less possibility to steal it if it has a proper protection system.

    And in case anybody would set out to stalk me or harm me they would succeed regardless on how easy personal information about me is available. It would take them only insignificantly longer.

    Finland has been voted for good reason many years in row the worlds least corrupted and most transparent country (by Transparency International). It is at the same time probably the country with the worlds lowest crime rate. Both physical crimes, and financial crimes like e.g. tax fraud...

    Transparency comes with a price, 'though:

    As You can't just hide everything from everyone trusting that enough obscurity will protect You privacy, You have to consider the value of information and the possible consequences of its misuse very carefully.

    You will suddenly have to deal with the problem to implement measure that REALLY protect those sets of data that are in the light of rationality worth protecting- from Your neighbor, and Yes, from the very authorities that implement those measure as well.

    But maybe that's too inconvenient- for all parties involved...

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