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New CFPB site could be a model for other agencies

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CFPB developed the eRegulations site as an alternative to paper editions of regulations, guidebooks, multiple websites and paid subscription services.

A new website from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau lays out the agency's written regulations in a single, navigable interface. The site is aimed at compliance officers, attorneys and CFPB employees. But the creation of the one-stop, open-source platform could have implications for other agencies looking to make their information more accessible.

For interested parties, eRegulations offers an alternative to clunky paper editions of regulations, guidebooks, multiple websites and paid subscription services. The agency maintains rules on consumer-facing financial products and services, and regulations on topics ranging from required disclosures for automatic teller machine transactions to rules for overdraft services at banks.

Especially for smaller or rural institutions, keeping up with the law can be a time consuming and expensive proposition.

"A compliance officer at a small community bank shouldn't have to sign up for a service to find out what the regulations are," said Matt Burton, acting CIO in the Technology Innovation office at CFPB.

The process started about a year ago, when the regulations office asked the technology team to work on a product that would streamline the experience of reading regulations. But the real story of eRegulations could be the opportunities opened up to other agencies looking to publish their rules online. Underneath the site, said Burton, "is an [application programming interface] that will ingest a body of regulations and spit them out as structured data."

There's a built in structure to a regulatory code, with chapters, paragraphs, and subparagraphs. The CFPB's tool parses the text of regulations a machine-readable collection of data that can be displayed in web form with each subparagraph having its own unique URL for handy reference, and with individual regulations strung together in order so a user can page through. There are links to supporting material, including interpretations of rules and supporting statutes.

"Our hope is that other agencies will see this and use it as their own regulations platform," Burton said. Because the eRegulations is open source, independent developers could draw on it as the basis for tools displaying government information. No agency has expressed an interest yet, but the site and the underlying API were only released this week.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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Reader comments

Fri, Oct 25, 2013

I just forwarded this to my program director for his consideration.

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