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Weekly News Round-Up: Open data, Owen Paterson and openness

Information Commissioner: ‘Open data is no substitute for freedom of information’

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has warned that the open data movement in the UK could lead to ‘open data’ becoming a substitute for ‘freedom of information’.

Speaking at the first annual Open Data Institute (ODI) summit in London, Graham said that the danger with open data is that the public only sees what the government chooses to make available – rather than the government providing data in response to specific queries.

As a result, the government could theoretically choose to publish data that casts it in a positive light, in order to detract from other data that highlights its failings.

Open data can therefore become the opposite of what it is intended to be, according to Graham, providing a very biased picture of what is actually going on in the public sector. Read more

Sophie Curtis | The Telegraph | 29th October 2013

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has yet to be briefed on climate change by chief scientist Sir Ian Boyd

The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, has never been briefed on climate change by the Government’s chief scientist since taking up his Cabinet post 14 months ago, The Independent has learnt.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that the man in charge of preparing Britain for the effects of climate change has received just two briefings on the subject since taking up his post. Neither of them were from Sir Ian Boyd, the Chief Scientific Adviser at Mr Paterson’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

One of the briefings, by Defra’s head of sustainable business, Jonathan Tillson, was on the morning of 27 September this year, just before the launch of the latest Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change (IPCC) and briefly covered the main points expected to be in the report. Read more

Tom Bawden | The Independent | 30th October 2013

Miliband to force openness on firms

ED MILIBAND plans to make private companies that work for the taxpayer obey public sector transparency rules. The move risks angering chief executives who fear they will have to reveal commercial secrets.

Labour’s plan would extend the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act to firms and charities selling services to the state. It would require thousands of organisations to disclose information about public sector contracts.

Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, said: “More and more of our public services are being delivered by private companies and charities, out of reach of freedom of information. We must demand the same openness from them as we expect from government. It’s not on to let these organisations hide behind a veil of secrecy.” Read more

Jack Grimston | The Sunday Times | 27th October 2013



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