Privacy Challenges in Open Government

Prof. Teresa Scassa is interested in Privacy Challenges in Open Government and welcomes your input and participation.

The open government movement promises greater access to government information and proactive disclosure of open data. If it unfolds as promised, a growing volume of information will soon flow from governments to individuals and to the private sector. Such information flows will be relatively free of physical and technological barriers, as well as restrictions on reuse. Canada’s federal government has expressed a commitment to open government, and provincial and municipal governments are also committing to varying degrees of openness. The values underlying the open government movement – greater transparency and accountability, and greater citizen engagement in government processes – are crucial to establishing and maintaining a vibrant democracy.

Open government, however, may conflict other important principles such as privacy. Public sector data protection and access to information laws have long sought to balance the need for access to public information with the protection of personal information. Yet these laws may not be adequate to cope with open government policies that move beyond models of access driven by individual requests. This project will explore the extent to which the open government movement may create or exacerbate tensions between the public interest in privacy and the public interest in open, transparent, and accountable government. I will examine three contexts in particular. These are: where already public information containing citizen personal data is made more readily accessible; where information is about both an identifiable individual and something else; and where de-identified information may nonetheless point to individuals as a result of data matching activities.

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