United Kingdom Consults on Datasets Disclosure Code

26 November 2012

The British government has begun a consultation on its code of practice on government datasets.

“The proposed new Code of Practice (datasets) was drafted in conjunction with the Cabinet Office, The Information Commissioners Office, The National Archives, and The Ministry of Justice and sets out what we mean by the terms in the new sections of the FOI Act,” according to the announcement.

 “It aims to make public authorities aware of their new responsibilities and intends to reduce confusion and bring clarity and completeness for local authorities. We are now looking for your views as to whether the draft code provides the right level of guidance and if there is anything else we need to cover to make this code as comprehensive and as useful as possible. We hope as many public servants and potential users of public data as possible will share their views online.

A blog post provides further background behind the 2012 datasets provision added to the Freedom of Information Act. The consultation ends Jan. 10, 2013, with April 2012 as the planned date for implementation.

The Nov. 21 blog post by Farah Ahmed describes the background for the review, explaining:

The public have always been able to request datasets under the Freedom of Information Act however, provisions relating to their disclosure and re-use conditions have developed in a piecemeal way. The aim of the new provisions in the Act is to consolidate the complex landscape around the release of datasets for use and re-use and for this new code to make public authorities aware of their new responsibilities, to reduce potential confusion and bring clarity to what is expected of public authorities undertaking their new duties.

This new draft Code of Practice (datasets) aims to make it clear as to what is meant by the terms set out in the new provisions in the FOI Act. For example, what is meant by “an electronic form which is capable of re-use” or a “re-usable format” for the purposes of the Act.

The new draft code also outlines the licensing framework public authorities must use when making their datasets available for re-use.

One initial response, from blogger Owen Boswarva objected, “In particular they will weaken the principle that most government information should be made available for re-use at marginal cost.”

In October, the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information issued for discussion a paper called “A National Information Framework for Public Sector Information and Open Data.”

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