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German Federal Government drafts open data law

Germany’s Federal Government wants to make administrative data accessible as the “raw material of the future” and has published a draft for an open data law. Unprocessed electronically stored data from federal authorities should be made available to the public free of charge, transparently and in a machine-readable format. The Federal Cabinet also wants to include metadata such as information about the origin, structure and content of the data. It should be made available via the existing GovData portal, heise reports.

The new paragraph 12a of the planned reform of the E-government Law states that: “A requirement for this data to be made available is not hereby established”. However, there is a difference in comparison with the Federal Information Freedom Law in that citizens will not necessarily be able to achieve access to the data being sought via the courts.

Moreover, the open data “by design” specification is only applicable to data which is officially “stored electronically and is available in structured sets, in particular in spreadsheets or lists”. These may contain only facts “relating to circumstances outside the authority”. Data for research purposes is also not included, ostensibly not to impede further open access initiatives.

There shall also be obstacles to publishing data as there are in the comprehensive exceptions in the Information Freedom Law. These refer to the protection of industrial and commercial secrets, creative rights or privacy. There shall also not be a right of access due to IT security reasons or statistical confidentiality, national or public security or “the need to protect the interests” of the security services and police.