back to article EU watchdog: Govt bods are seeking 'legal knockouts' to dodge transparency

Public bodies are taking an increasingly “legalistic” approach to disclosing information that doesn’t always support transparency, the European Union’s dodgy management watchdog has said. In a speech at the International Conference of Information Commissioners, EU ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said that, although a high proportion …

  1. tiggity Silver badge

    Data access

    Or when data API is made available for public data you have to access it through ludicrously niche methods such as SPARQL (instead of something far more commonly used, but not trendy, such as bog standard SQL)

    .. Stares at lots of "open" UK data where access methods seems to have been defined by a set of SPARQL fanboiz/girlz rather than thinking what could be easily used by lots of IT literate people with minimal effort.

    Caveat, yes I know there are lots of good things about SPARQL, but learning curve will deter lots of IT bods who might have had a quick casual "out of interest" play with the data & revealed something tasty if it was readily available using their existing skill set - you have to be a lot more dedicated to investigating the data to learn new query languages (especially when code tools for SPARQL are not exactly pushed by the big vendors e.g. MS are a big player in SQL so have a vested interest in NOT providing good SPARQL tools)

    1. ExampleOne

      Re: Data access

      Perhaps that is the intent?

  2. Peter2 Silver badge

    "learning curve will deter lots of IT bods who might have had a quick casual "out of interest" play with the data & revealed something tasty if it was readily available using their existing skill set"

    This isin't deliberate, honest!

    “But the plans were on display…”

    “On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”

    “That’s the display department.”

    “With a flashlight.”

    “Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”

    “So had the stairs.”

    “But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”

    “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "if the government publishes a dataset as a file that runs to 11 million rows a month, it won’t be much use to people who only has the skills to use Excel, where a file can support about 1.5 million rows."

    When all you have is a hammer it's no use complaining the nails are too big.

    1. Adam Foxton

      It certainly would!

      Excel has a built-in interface for querying external databases. If the data was exposed sensibly- like the STL mentioned above- it would allow people to filter the data they need out of the whole dataset and work on it from there. Not everyone will need or want every field or all 11 million records!

      When you only have a small hammer, filter out any inappropriately large nails.

  4. Huns n Hoses

    Disclosure

    Anyone could publish source code stripped of comments and sane formatting, but no-one would consider that useful or even usable, right?

    If gov.uk is going to make data public, it should be in a sensible format, not simply a dump which suggests they were dragged to a reluctant compliance.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Let's try and start with a simpler proposition. All public data should be public.

    Which i think would be a step change for the UK government, for which everything is still an Imperial Secret, unless proven otherwise*

    No wonder a certain portion of the UK Civil Service can't wait for Brexit.

    *Reflecting the mind set of those who make such rules.

  6. Hargrove

    Spot on:

    What this article describes has become a pervasive practice in the US. The subordinate party in any agreement (and in IT the take it or leave it nature of the transaction gives the service provider de facto dominance) there are provisions that have the following legal effect when put in plain English:

    This agreement takes precedence over other rights and conditions afforded you by law or prior agreement,

    and my own favorite

    We have the right to change the agreement at any time without notice.

    The crux of the legal problem is that such "agreements" violate the basic principles of contracts. They are inherently extortionist in nature. This puts the courts in the bizarre and untenable position of enforcing extortion.

    Imagine what Hitler could have accomplished with this kind of arrangement and a populace with its collective nose buried in their smart phone.

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