By data protection legislation is not about protecting the data, but the right of citizens to live without doubt of the consequences that might come if information of their private lives becomes public. The law protects the privacy (such as information about a person economic status, health and political position) and other rights such as the right to freedom of movement and assembly. For example, in Finland a travel card system used record all instances when the card was shown to the reader machine on different public transport lines. This raised a debate from the perspective of freedom of movement and the travel card data collection was abandoned based on the data protection legislation.
(Web) Application Programming Interface
IARs are registers specifically set up to capture and organise meta-data about the vast quantities of information held by government departments and agencies. A comprehensive IAR would include databases, old sets of files, recent electronic files, collections of statistics, research, etc.
The EU PSI Directive recognises the importance of asset registers for prospective re-users of public information, and requires that member states provide lists, portals, or something similar. It states:
Tools that help potential re-users to find documents available for re-use and the conditions for re-use can facilitate considerably the cross-border use of public sector documents. Member States should therefore ensure that practical arrangements are in place that help re-users in their search for documents available for reuse. Assets lists, accessible preferably online, of main documents (documents that are extensively re-used or that have the potential to be extensively re-used), and portal sites that are linked to decentralised assets lists are examples of such practical arrangements.
IARs can be developed in different ways. Government departments can develop their own IARs and these can be linked to a national IARs. IARs can include information which is held by public bodies but which has not yet been – and maybe will not be – proactively published. Hence they allow members of the public to identify information which exists and which can be requested.
For the public to make use of these IARs, it is important that any registers of information held be as complete as possible in order to be able to have confidence that documents can be found. The lack of completeness of some registers is a significant problem as it creates a degree of unreliability which may discourage some from using the registers to search for information.
It is essential that the metadata in the IARs be comprehensive so that search engines can function effectively. In the spirit of open government data, public bodies should make available their IARs to the general public as raw data under an open licence so that civic hackers can make use of the data, for example by building search engines and user interfaces.