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August 15, 2013 | Ed Paton Williams

Open Data Update

August is proving a busy time for open data. There are several initiatives and consultations that end in the following weeks.


Postcodes licensing

Hundreds of ORG supporters joined many others, including Tim Berners-Lee, in asking minister Michael Fallon not to privatise the Postcode database. Our pressure was not enough to stop the sell-off, but we managed to get Fallon to offer an olive branch in the form of free access for “micro-firms”.

This is clearly not enough, and we need to continue reminding the government that the Postcodes are part of the core national data the government plans to open up.

We have an opportunity to raise this issue once again. There is a consultation on new licensing for the Postcode database.

The consultation closes at 5pm on Friday 20th September.

UK Transparency: National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership

The UK government has published its second Open Government Action Plan, a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.

Civil society groups - including ORG - have been contributing to drafting this plan over the past few months. The process has been positive, but we feel that many critical issues are not included. These have been listed in the Annex.

The draft plan is available for consultation here. But a quicker way to engage is to simply comment online on this interactive platform.

Both channels are equally valid. Consultation responses will be analysed jointly by the Cabinet Office Transparency Team and members of the civil society network.

This draft plan is now open for consultation until 19 September 2013.

The plan will be presented at the OGP summit in London on the 31st of October. ORG is organising some sessions at the summit on privacy and surveillance, and we will keep you posted nearer the date. You can pre-register here.

Public Administration Select Committee calls for evidence on open data

The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) of the UK Parliament is conducting an inquiry into statistics and open data in Government, with a focus on the progress of the Government in implementing its Open Data strategy. This is part of PASC’s programme of work on statistics and their use in government.

Further information is available here. The deadline is 12 noon on Tuesday 3 September 2013.

HMRC consultation on data sharing

HMRC wants to be able to share more non-identifying information, including general and aggregate data as well as anonymised data sets. HMRC also seeks views on proposals to share VAT registration data, either publicly or under controlled conditions for specified purposes, for example, credit rating.

There are concerns that the proposals don’t go far enough from an open data perspective, and may end up simply funnelling valuable public data to large data brokers such as Experian that already know a lot about us. There are also obvious privacy risks involved in any mass sharing of anonymised data.

The consultation closes on 24 September 2013.

Data sharing is looking to become a big issue in the near future. ORG had a meeting with the Law Commission on this topic in July. They are planning to consult on changing the legal grounds for data sharing within government. Currently, departments have to prove the sharing serves a specific purpose linked to their mission. The proposals will make sharing the default.

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