The Permanent Representatives Committee (otherwise known as ‘Coreper,’ consisting of representatives from the Member States and responsible for preparing the work of the Council of the EU) has expressed support for the European Commission’s plans through legislative changes to open up public sector data for re-use across Europe.
The initiative, which is part of the pending update to the 2003 Public Sector Information Directive, would make all generally accessible (i.e., non-personal) public sector information available for re-use across all Member States. Developers, programmers, businesses and citizens will be able to access and re-use public sector data at low cost, and this is predicted to result in a significant boost to the European economy.
Through proposed revisions to the 2003 Directive, a new genuine right to re-use public information would be introduced, including access to information stored by libraries, museums and archives. The revised Directive would allow such bodies to charge at maximum the marginal cost for reproduction, provision and dissemination of the information, so as to ensure the recovery of costs or a reasonable return on investment in exceptional cases. The revisions would also encourage public sector bodies to make data available in open machine-readable formats. The programme would include geographical, health care, transport and statistical information, and through this wider availability of public data could potentially enable economic growth, bringing tens of billions of euros per year across the EU. Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission, said: "Opening up public data means opening up business opportunities, creating jobs and building communities.”
The initiative would apply to non-personal public information only, but some privacy groups have already expressed concerns, stating that the open availability of data must be scrutinised to avoid the so-called ‘jigsaw effect,’ whereby large quantities of non-personal data can be used to re-identify anonymous data or to profile individuals.
While Coreper’s support for the initiative is noteworthy, the proposed new rules still need to be formally approved by the European Parliament.