Lessons from Datarescue: The Limits of Grassroots Climate Change Data Preservation and the Need for Federal Records Law Reform
166 University of Pennsylvania Law Review Online 231 (2018)
18 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2018
Date Written: April 16, 2018
The DataRescue project, a volunteer, grassroots effort to archive environmental information stored on federal websites, failed to produce a searchable, public access collection of records. The project demonstrated that a volunteer effort is not ideal for preserving large collections of online government information, proving that the government is ideally suited to take on the responsibility of preserving access to its troves of environmental data. A host of federal records laws and policies support the notion that the government is meant to take on the role of data preservation on federal websites. The Federal Records Act, the Presidential Records Act of 1978, and the Freedom of Information Act were created to prevent government administrators from engaging in censorship, lack of transparency, and the destruction of relevant government records in both paper and electronic formats. These laws, in their current iterations, are insufficient to meet the preservation needs of the digital information age, and must be reformed to ensure proper records preservation and access. This Essay describes DataRescue’s efforts and limitations, and examines the Federal Records Act, prescribing statutory updates that would safeguard online access to government records, allowing volunteers across the nation to rest easy knowing that climate change data and other information will be preserved through changing presidential administrations.
Keywords: federal records act, FOIA, records access, technology, internet
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation