Most government information disclosure laws and systems currently in place, including right-to-know, freedom of information and public records laws, are vehicles for reactive disclosure. Reactive disclosure means that a question has to be asked before an answer is given and that public information must be requested before it is disclosed. Proactive disclosure is the opposite. Proactive disclosure is the release of public information before an individual requests it. In the 21st century that means proactively putting new information online, where people are looking for it.
Open data laws provide an opportunity not just to update and improve access to information that is already open and/or public but also to specify that new data sets and records be collected and published. Similarly, policies should be specific about what “new” data can mean: in some instances, this provision can be used to require that that new data be created, collected and released for the first time.