A team of over 40 transparency activists aimed their browsers at California this past weekend, collecting more than 400 database catalogs from local government agencies, as required under a new state law. Together, participants in the California Database Hunt shined light on thousands upon thousands of government record systems.
California S.B. 272 requires every local government body, with the exception of educational agencies, to post inventories of their “enterprise systems,” essentially every database that holds records on members of the public or is used as a primary source of information. These database catalogs were required to be posted online (at least by agencies with websites) by July 1, 2016.
EFF, the Data Foundation, the Sunlight Foundation, and Level Zero, combined forces to host volunteers in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and remotely. More than 40 volunteers scoured as many local agency websites as we could in four hours—cities, counties, regional transportation agencies, water districts, etc. Here are the rough numbers as of August 29, 2016:
680 - The number of unique agencies that supporters searched
970 - The number of searches conducted (Note: agencies found on the first pass not to have catalogs were searched a second time)
430 – Number of agencies with database catalogs online
250 – Number of agencies without database catalogs online, as verified by two people
Updated 8-29-2016: City of Santa Monica's database catalog was added to the list.
Updated 8-31-2016: The link to the County of San Mateo's data catalog incorrectly went to the San Mateo Local Agency Formation Commission's data catalog. We have corrected this by inserting the correct link for San Mateo County and adding a new line for SMLAFCO.
Updated 9-6-2016: The City of Chico's database catalog has been added to the list.
Updated 9-20-2016: Database catalogs for the cities of Lake Elsinore, Lakeport, Santa Rosa, and Piedmont have been added to the list.
Updated 9-23-2015: Database catalogs for the cities of Canyon Lake, Milpitas, National City, and Ukiah have been added to the list.
Please note that for each of the cities and counties identified as not posting database catalogs, at least two volunteers searched for the catalogs and could not find them. It is possible that those agencies do in fact have S.B. 272-compliant catalogs posted somewhere, but not in what we would call a “prominent location,” as required by the new law. If you represent an agency that would like its database catalog listed, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the dozens of volunteers who sacrificed their Saturday afternoons to help make local government in California a little less opaque. Check out this 360-degree photo of our San Francisco team on Facebook.
In the coming days and weeks, we plan to analyze and share the data further. Stay tuned, and if you find anything interesting perusing these database catalogs, please drop us a line at email@example.com.