France Considers Checks on Users of Public Data

26 November 2010

Legislation being considered in France would permit police “behavior” checks on those who want to reuse information obtained from public bodies, according to a statement by AccessInfo and Regards Citoye.

The groups said proposed amendments to the 1995 Police Security Act would significantly complicate and slow access to information in France. Consideration of the proposal by the French National Assembly is now slated for Dec. 14, according to media reports.

The draft law would extend the scope of police “behavior” checks from legitimate purposes such as checking on those to have access to dangerous substances and high security zones to those who want to reuse information obtained from public bodies, according to AccessInfo and Regards Citoye. The criteria for the background checks are not specified in the law, they said. The statement says further:

The information affected could include, for example, databases on public spending, copies of laws, or electoral results. Much data held by local authorities which is of great interest to the public such as schedules and real-time locations of trains and buses, information about recycling schemes, and construction works permits would also fall under these new controls.

“This is an extremely dangerous law which would seriously limit freedom of expression in France,” said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe.

“Subjecting those who wish to access and reuse public datasets to vaguely-defined morality controls runs counter to the basic principles of the freedom of expression and information enshrined in the French Constitution, and is a violation of European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence and EU law,” added Darbishire.

“If this provision were to be adopted, France would be closing down public access to information rather than opening it up,” concluded Benjamin Ooghe-Tabanou, co-founder of Regards Citoyens.

Access Info Europe is a human rights organisation head-quartered in Madrid which promote the right of access to information and open government data in Europe. Access Info Europe believes that more public information means better participation in and greater accountability of public bodies.

Regards Citoyens is a civic association which promotes the opening of public data to secure greater transparency of democratic institutions in France.

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