ODI final submission to PSI consultation now online

Last week the Open Data Institute submitted its finalised response to the UK Government's consultation on Re-use of Public Sector Information.

The ODI is concerned that the government's proposals could make it harder for people to access and re-use public information.

Our final submission incorporated comments and suggestions we received from stakeholders across the open data community, after we shared our draft submission online.

One key change between our draft and final submission was to clarify how we see a First Tier Tribunal being part of the re-use complaints process.

We still believe the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is best placed to hear complaints on decisions about re-use of public information, and be empowered to make binding decisions about re-use. The existing complaints process administered by OPSI is complex and OPSI's decisions are non-binding. Under the government's proposal, a re-user could have to apply to a First Tier Tribunal after going through the OPSI process simply to have OPSI's decision enforced, adding delays and potentially discouraging re-use.

ICO already rules on complaints under the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000, among other areas of legislation, and this would align the regime for re-use with the regime for access – particularly relevant since the “right to data” was introduced in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

We have clarified, though, as rightly pointed out by Owen Boswarva, that there should be an appeals mechanism from ICO, and recourse to a First Tier Tribunal is appropriate. This is in line with existing ICO appeals mechanisms. Our main concern is ensuring re-users (and public bodies) don't experience undue delays and costs going through the complaints process.

What happens next?

As this stage, it doesn’t look like there will be another public opportunity to comment on the UK’s proposals. Taking into account how much is still unclear from the initial consultation, the ODI in its submission urges the government to publish its proposed amendments to the 2005 Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations for further consultation.