In a Nutshell: No ZIP Codes for You
The U.S. Postal Service denied our FOIA request for a list of current ZIP Codes, because the information is “proprietary business information” and its release would not be considered a “good business practice”. This followed their refusal to license us their online ZIP Code API because we were not planning on using it for USPS shipping. They suggested that we purchase a $3,000 per year “data product” containing the information. This offering, however, has so many technical and licensing hurdles that it’s essentially unusable.
Our Hunt for ZIP Codes Started When We Became Interested in Mapping Restaurant Health Inspections
We create apps which increase access to laws and government info. This is mostly a labor of love, earning enough money to cover the costs of running the Internet servers.
There isn’t yet an app or website for easily browsing restaurant health inspections in Multnomah County, Oregon. The County does have a web app, but it has a lot of issues, and won’t be upgraded until late next year.
Critically, while sorting through the County’s data for each restaurant, we found that the city is missing, although the ZIP Code is there. And so to place these on a map we needed a current list of ZIP Codes and corresponding city names.
Our search for this simple information culminated in this rejected FOIA request to the U.S. Postal Service. This is because our “open source” open-government use of the data is not an acceptable reason to either 1) provide us online access to the USPS API, or 2) send us a current list of ZIP Codes and cities.