GIS Data, Do you give it away?

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06-21-2021 08:55 AM
Finney_CountyGIS
New Contributor II

I apologize if this is not in the right place. But I was just looking for feedback from other GIS Professionals. We are a local county government. We take care of a lot of county wide datasets (addresses, roads, parcels, utilities, zoning, etc). My main question is this:

Do you sell your data, give it away, or do you not let outside agencies have access to data? (and why)

Im really interested in how others approach this. Thanks in advance for any response/advice.

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6 Replies
StephanieMagnan
New Contributor II

I think it's important to first look at your internal policies and procedures for supplying information to see if there are any fee requirements.  I worked in state government, most of our data was public information so it is free for the most part, unless it required more than a few hours of work or paper copies were requested.  In Vermont, there is a GIS open data portal where multiple contributors publish GIS data that anyone can access. 

Hopefully that helps!

Finney_CountyGIS
New Contributor II

I think that's part of the confusion here is internal policies. We do have a fees committee that says we should charge, but there is always pressure to collaborate. Im lean heavy on the side of sharing (as long as we aren't working to process anything or giving away resources). Thanks for your reply and help!

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DavidForbuss1
Occasional Contributor II

Our director was quite frank with me when I asked this same question.  He said "We want people to have our data..."  It was a complete 180 from my previous employer because they didn't want any of our data to be shared.  I guess it just depends on the agency and/or data content.  We tend to keep customer data pretty private, but as far as our sewer system maps go, they are shared freely with the public.

Finney_CountyGIS
New Contributor II

That's our conundrum with Utility data. We don't want to share it publicly, however if anyone asks for it they negate the fees and hand over shapefiles. However when our organization asks private utilities for data, we are told sharply NO because it's a security risk. It seems to be a fine line with any dataset. Thanks for your input!

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StephanieMagnan
New Contributor II

Agreed! I worked briefly in the Public Service Department overseeing broadband data and many times I had to sign a NDA with internet companies agreeing that I could generalize the data for statewide broadband purposes but I could not share the data set outside the Department.  Utility data, at least in Vermont, is owned, for the most part, by private companies, it's not the state or counties place really to distribute this information unless you've gotten agreement by all parties.

Does your state GIS have an open GIS portal and have they developed policies that might help in this decision making?

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jcarlson
MVP Regular Contributor

It depends on the dataset, ultimately, but our opinion is that if we are allowed to give the data away, we will. But we also want our open data to be seen as authoritative and high-quality.

In our department, nearly all of our layers are derived from publicly-available documents, anyway, so we feel that derivative products should be public as well. Parcels, zoning, centerlines, etc. If you knew what you were doing, you could read the deeds and draw them up yourself, so why not save you the time and give you the "official" version?

There are other datasets that we use that aren't as "official", such as building footprints, hydrology, etc., and we're working on moving those to OpenStreetMap entirely, and plan to direct interested users to the many ways of extracting data from the OSM dataset.

The end goal is essentially to maintain free and open access to anything that we are the authoritative source for, and to offload the rest of it, and make it even easier to access as part of a global, open dataset.

- Josh Carlson
Kendall County GIS