Is Open Referral ‘scraping’ 2-1-1 data?

No. Open Referral is not a database or a platform. We help other organizations evolve their resource databases into open platforms. 

For what it’s worth, we reject the idea that community resource data can or should be treated like private property. It is public information, and organizations that do business with it should be recouping the costs of maintaining it by helping other organizations add value to it, thereby capturing some of that value. It’s a much more strategic and sustainable business model than trying to sell public information. See a report from Miami Open211 about how this might work.

We do recognize that there are some resource directory projects out there that are scraping 2-1-1s data. (Some of these projects are non-profit, or all-volunteer, or even for-profit.) Scraping this data from websites is usually technically easy, and it’s legally okay too. We disapprove of this, mostly because it makes it harder to have constructive conversations about the real problem — which is that this data is not currently “open” for machine-readable re-use. We also believe that if community resource directory data were openly accessible in a machine-readable format, ‘scraping’ would be pointless. Instead, people would use such data from its source, in ways from which the source can and should benefit.

Posted in: Overview, Strategic Questions