Open Data & Re-Use

Bart van der Sloot

Open Data & Re-use

Bart van der Sloot is an expert in the field of Open Data and the Re-Use of Public Sector Information. He joined a project for the European Commission and co-authored an advice on the revision of the EU PSI Directive. In addition, he has conducted an analysis of the open access model of the Dutch Statistical Agency and has advised many governmental organisations on their open access and re-use policies. He has also written a number of scientific contributions on this topics.

CBS is the general (governmental) statistical agency of the Netherlands. As such, it gathers and analyses enormous amounts of data about the Dutch population and the Dutch society. 

Authorised institutions can conduct their own research using microdata sets of CBS. Microdata are linkable data at the level of individuals, companies and addresses, which can be made available to researchers under strict conditions for statistical research. To obtain access for research purposes, please complete and submit an application form research project and a template for the research proposal. The complete results of the research on Microdata must be made directly available to interested parties, as a rule at no charge.

Together with a colleagues of Leiden University and Delft University, I've analysed to what extent the Microdata program conflicts with the right to privacy, institutional integrity and societal trust. The final report can be downloaded here

Legislation placing open access requirements on governmental organisations have been in place for decades. The purpose of these rules is to make government power transparent and democratic control possible. Recently, new regulations have been adopted. The Reuse of Public Sector Information Directive deals with access to government information, but has a fundamentally different purpose. It is not democracy or the control of governmental power that are central to these rules, but the commercial exploitation of government information by private companies. This means that the government gives data about citizens to third parties without knowing what they are used for. Ultimately, this constellation might undermine the social contract between government and citizen.

Download the article (in Dutch only) here.

Opening up public sector information for re-use is a priority on the European Commission’s Digital Agenda. The objective of the LAPSI 2.0 thematic network is to identify the remaining legal barriers and obstacles to access and re-use of public sector information (PSI) on the European content market, and to provide measures and tools to overcome or reduce these barriers and to stimulate the progress of the European market towards open data. LAPSI 2.0 brings together academic experts with stakeholders from the public and private sector in order to provide clear insights in the remaining legal issues with regard to access to data, data protection, intellectual property rights and competition, institutional embedding and enforcement, and licensing frameworks. 

I co-authored a report on privacy and data protection concerns with respect to re-use of PSI. The report can be downloaded here

Most public sector documents will contain personal data, given the fact that the definition thereof is all-encompassing. Since the PSI Directive holds the Data Protection Directive to be fully applicable on the re-use of public sector information, both the governmental organizations and the re-using parties are under a number of obligations, a good part of which they will have difficulty with to fulfill. Good solutions are very few and far between: both a total prohibition and allowing re-use without conditions are unsatisfying because they do not take into account the economic potential of the information respectively the value of data protection and privacy. Anonymization would be the best solution, since it would diminish the privacy-aspects of re-use and would still ensure that the value of the documents is retained.

A new solution is suggested in this paper, namely to let every citizen register its own personal privacy settings regarding the re-use of public sector information. This ensures that the citizen is informed about the re-use taking place, has consented to it and that everyone creates his own tailor made model for re-use. As an incentive, citizens might be rewarded a percentage of the profit made by the re-using parties or a lump sum per time information is re-used.

Download the article here. 

Other Scientific Contributions