I'm part of Sunlight Foundation's local team working on opening up local governments and city data, specifically. We're working on a blog post rounding up the most common reasons cited by governments to not release data** and then refuting each one. 

We've rounded up the reasons cited for not releasing data, but now we're trying to refute each one. We're hoping to round up ideas by Sept. 9. 

So, we're curious:  What are your best responses when people tell you they can't open data? / What are the best responses you've heard (or given) for releasing or sharing data?

*EDIT on Sept. 4: Thanks for the feedback, all! We're working toward sharing the crowdsourced list of reasons people have given us for not releasing data, and at that time we'll re-open the discussion on reasons TO release data.

**EDIT on Sept. 5: We've posted a blog rounding up the reasons people have cited for NOT releasing data and have re-issued the challenge to help refute each reason. Learn more here: http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2013/09/05/reasons-not-to-release-data/

**EDIT on Sept. 16: Thanks to everyone who has responded on the Google doc or through this platform. We're rounding up all the reasons and responses now, and we'll be sure to share it here.

**FInal update on Sept. 30: We are now starting to roll out the rebuttals as blog posts, and the first one went live today: http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2013/09/30/reasons-to-not-release-data-part-1-apathy/

Thanks so much to all of you who contributed ideas for this project throughout its evolution! We couldn't have done it without the help of so many different perspectives, and we feel the end result is richer for it. If you'd like to share, please join the continuing conversation by using #whyopendata.

  • 4
    Hi Alisha, I think you will get better responses if you get specific. How about, for each reason, you open up a question about how to refute it.
    – fgregg
    Aug 30, 2013 at 20:05
  • 2
    Yeah - Stack Exchange posts work less well as discussion forums, and better at providing specific answers to a single specific question.
    – Eric Mill
    Sep 1, 2013 at 20:52
  • 1
    this is a great topic. You might want to create a question per reason you identified so the community can answer per reasons (and so get specific answers following SE standards)
    – magdmartin
    Sep 4, 2013 at 17:45
  • 1
    Maybe we should break out the 50 questions as community owned questions.
    – fgregg
    Sep 5, 2013 at 19:58
  • I can't comment on a deleted answer - it was simply a website to find the e-mail addresses of executives at corporations.
    – Taal
    Sep 6, 2013 at 14:04

2 Answers 2


"Oops! I'm sorry, I can't be your customer."

-- by which I simply mean this: they can't, and so I can't. There are plenty of other people who are interested in having an open and honest relationship with their customers; companies who don't, aren't interesting to me, and I'm frankly unwilling to waste my time with people that I can't trust.

  • 2
    Can you be more specific about this response or provide an answer for the question? Thanks! Sep 6, 2013 at 13:45
  • So of all the products, services, goods, and food you eat now...if you asked them for some data that you were dong a project on..which sometimes could be considered on the gray line of proprietary or not....if they said no would you....for instance, just stop purchasing that product/using that service?
    – Taal
    Sep 8, 2013 at 15:04
  • @Taal, I'm strange I know :) it's a judgement call, but my ethics play a big part on where I spend. But the real argument is whether companies that close their doors may lose custom, not my custom as a result.
    – boisvert
    Sep 8, 2013 at 22:55
  • @boisvert if you read my post I think I may have beat you in the strangeness department. Although I have an idea that some of those tricks..well perhaps hopefully derivatives of a few at least ;) someone found useful. I do have experience that backs up what you say (or at least being treated poorly in contrast to being treated awesome) as being a large factor for many customers and their decision on what to buy or where to shop. I actually even see myself doing this sometimes even though I can't afford to. I guess the human emotion of "revenge" actually may subtly govern humanity in a way.
    – Taal
    Sep 10, 2013 at 8:49

In the end it boils down to two reasons people don't want to share their data. The first is that the data actually is non-existent. In this case people are just lying.

The main reason however, is that there can be legitimate reason to keep data closed. Ranging from commercial reasons, as an entrepreneur you sometimes simply need to keep the data to yourself keep the lead. This can especially be the case when you are alone to competing to larger teams. Another reasons to hide the data is when people would get hurt when it get revealed. You don't want to share of names of people how files a police report against a someone having a gun. I guess there are a multitude of reasons, you don't want to share.

I do expect however that people are transparent about why the data is not open. If it is just "because I say so". Well then I consider them to be of the "inventing-data kind".

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