The website MuckRock has posted a remarkable data set showing SNAP (food stamp) purchase amounts at individual Massachusetts retailers. A clever Google Maps application makes the data easy to access. By clicking on each red dot, one can see the redemptions data for fiscal years 2006 through 2009.
In general, the federal government shares information about the location of SNAP retailers but not the amount of redemptions at each retailer. According to the Boston Globe today, it is possible that the data were released in error, and MuckRock may have to take down the data. This would be too bad. Just as the farm subsidies received by individual farmers are subject to freedom-of-information rules, and can be shared with the public, it seems reasonable to think of SNAP benefit payments to retailers as public information rather than fully private business information. Perhaps a reasonable compromise would be to stipulate a threshold for small retailers below which the exact dollar amount need not be made public.