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How Much To Access Government Data On Immigration? Only $173,775

“There is no case law around an issue like this.”


A little more than a year ago, Quartz’s David Yanofsky did what many data reporters do every day: He submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for a set of statistics from a government agency. Yanofsky wanted immigration statistics about who enters the country from the International Trade Administration, the only government agency that compiles comprehensive records of this kind.

The ITA got back to him and said that he was welcome to the data set — all he had to do was cut a check for $173,775. After weeks of paperwork and haggling with the agency, Yanofsky is now suing to get access, and to make a larger statement about the importance of open data for journalists and residents alike.

On this week’s What’s The Point, Yanofsky discusses his lawsuit, what he thinks is in the data, and why the information costs $173,775, anyway.

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Jody Avirgan hosts and produces podcasts for FiveThirtyEight.