Misgivings Regarding the UK’s New Right to Data

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A recent article written by Richard Wallis takes a look at the UK’s Protection of Freedoms Bill with special emphasis on the “new right to data.” Wallis quotes Prime Minister David Cameron’s comments on this section of the bill: “You are going to have so much information about what we do, how much of your money we spend doing it, and what the outcome is.  So use it, exploit it, hold us to account.  Together we can set a great example of what a modern democracy ought to look like.”

Wallis voices excitement regarding the bill, but also some misgivings regarding its sometimes vague language: “On the topic of presumptions of openness, the wording of this bill contains phrases such as ‘unless the authority is satisfied that it is not appropriate for the dataset to be published’ and ‘where reasonably practicable’.  It is clear that many in the public sector are not as enthusiastic about publishing data as the current government position and such vague phrases as these may well be unreasonably used by some in justifying a throttling of the stream of information.”

Wallis concludes, “I welcome the commitment to a right to data being realized by streams of government information about what we do, how much of our money is spent doing it, and what the outcomes are.  However, I am skeptical as to how effective the measures in the current Protection of Freedoms Bill will be in delivering them.”

Learn more about open and linked data in government by attending the Open Government track at SemTech 2011 this June.

Image: Courtesy Flickr/ World Economic Forum

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