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Open Corporate Data For Everyone, Everywhere

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, October 16 2013

Screenshot of Barclays relationship network

The open data movement is sweeping the world and its champions are determined that no government, organization or even corporation will be left behind. This summer OpenCorporates launched an open data corporate network platform on which they can collect, collate and visualize corporate relationship data. They are striving to be nothing less than the go-to database for corporate data, with “a URL for every company in the world.” This comes at an important time when corporate data is becoming increasingly difficult to access, as David Eaves pointed out in techPresident last year.

Journalists or scholars—or just regular citizens—can use the corporate network platform to visualize otherwise complex and obscure relationship networks. It is, in other words, a tool for “keeping tabs on our corporate overlords.”

In an interview with techPresident earlier this year, OpenCorporates co-founder Chris Taggart said, “In a highly connected, networked world, where the network's evolving all the time, the power comes from being able to connect the dots. And at the moment ... citizens, people, other companies even don't have the ability to connect those dots."

That task is a little easier now. To illustrate the power of the platform, OpenCorporates put together some visualizations of the major global corporate powers. They are preceded by this introduction:

If you want to understand how complex multinational companies are, consider this.

In Hong Kong, there's a company called Goldman Sachs Structured Products (Asia) Limited. It's controlled by another company called Goldman Sachs (Asia) Finance, registered in Mauritius.

That's controlled by a company in Hong Kong, which is controlled by a company in New York, which is controlled by a company in Delaware, and that company is controlled by another company in Delaware called GS Holdings (Delaware) L.L.C. II.

...Which itself is a subsidiary of the only Goldman you're likely to have heard of, The Goldman Sachs Group in New York City.

That's only one of hundreds of such chains. All told, Goldman Sachs consists of more than 4000 separate corporate entities all over the world, some of which are around ten layers of control below the New York HQ.

Of those companies approximately a third are registered in nations that might be described as tax havens.Indeed, in the world of Goldman Sachs, the Cayman Islands are bigger than South America, and Mauritius is bigger than Africa.

These are maps of the top five banking companies in the US, and are based on publicy [sic] available data from the Federal Reserve. Read more about our data on the link at the top left.

The global influence of Goldman Sachs.

OpenCorporates has also indexed countries based on their openness with company data. They ranked the United Kingdom the highest, followed by Norway, the Czech Republic and Albania. The United States putters in at number 12.

The corporate network platform was built with a grant from the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, and has been in the works since last year. The founders were already deep into open data and transparency before starting OpenCorporates. Rob McKinnon built sites and Chris Taggart build and OpenCharities. Taggart also sits on the U.K. Government's Local Public Data Panel, the U.K.'s Tax Transparency Board and Open Knowledge Foundation's open government working group, and he spoke at Personal Democracy Forum 2013.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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