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The Europe Roundup: The Danger of Transparency

BY Antonella Napolitano | Wednesday, June 29 2011

  • Slovakia | The danger of transparency
    A couple of weeks ago the winners of the Open Data Challenge were announced at the First Digital Agenda Assembly in Brussels.
    Best in the application category was ("From Our Taxes" in Slovak), which provides an interface to find people behind companies that are linked to government contracts. The tool aims at empowering citizens, asking them to review the connections including the contract prices.
    It appears, though, that this transparency tool ended up creating problema the people involved in making it, as TKTK reports:

    Apparently, one of the relevant company’s managers found herself in the database and took the case to the court. The court in Bratislava requested immediate censorship of some information, including prices in the application, even though all data displayed in the application comes from publicly-available sources. This injunction has been issued before any final verdict in the case. Zuzana Wienk, director at Fair-Play Alliance - the owner of the application, considers this court action to be a violation of Slovakia’s constitution.

    This raises a number of questions on how open data can be used and if current legislation is up to date. Sometimes open data don’t come easy!

  • UK | Westminster and the digital democracy: ‘nutters’ creating platforms?

    It's about liberating all of that data, making it free for people to do creative things with it without the state or market or other people putting constraints on them but giving them the freedom to do something interesting.” - Julian Huppert, Lib Dem MP

    BBC Parliament’s Duncan Smith explains how technology is changing the work of the British politicians in their everyday activities, from Twitter to iPads.
    MPs are very open to the idea of providing more transparency when it comes to public spending.
    But creating a “digital relationship” with the constituency still has many hurdles:

    The new technology "is exciting and opens up democracy, freedom of expression to loads of people,, Conservative backbencher Kris Hopkins said at a Hansard Society event looking at the digital agenda a year on from the general election. But he added the warning: "They also open up opportunities to nutters to create platforms."
    Addressing the meeting Mr Hopkins warned that while MPs welcomed new and innovative ways to communicate with voters - they also received a lot of offensive communications.
    He added: "I have to say I have some wonderful constituents who write with amazing issues and dramas and I have got a fantastic office. But I have also got some lunatics out there who think they have the right to abuse me." Mr Hopkins explained that a lack of control of modern communications led to problems.

    Most MPs are enthusiastically exploring the potential of Twitter to communicate with their constituency.
    There is only one issues that meets “archaic” resistance from British MPs from all sides of the aisle: voting.

    Currently MPs have to physically walk through the Aye or the No lobby to register their votes, in a process that takes at least 15 minutes. [...] But that was not a bad thing, he said, because gathering in the division lobbies was often the only time backbench MPs got to meet ministers and allowed a lot of business to get done quickly and quietly.

    Even in the digital age there are traditions worth keeping.

  • EU | OKcon 2011 in Berlin
    The Open Knowledge Conference is starting tomorrow in Berlin with a program full of presentations and workshops. The sixth edition of the conference will feature an incredible list of speakers, from’s Nigel Shadbolt to Richard Stallman and Jeremie Zimmerman.
    In the OKcon’s definition “open knowledge is any content or data that anyone is free to re-use for any purpose – from sonnets to statistics, from genes to geodata” and the conference promises to explore all related topics.
  • EU | Do you know an active citizen?
    Volonteurope has announced that nominations are open for its 2011 Active Citizens of Europe award.

    We are looking for nominations from across Europe for individual volunteers, NGOs and corporate organisations with great CSR programmes, who have proved to be outstanding pioneers and ambassadors for voluntary action and Active Citizenship.

    Volonteurope promotes action throughout the EU as a mechanism for Active European Citizenship.2011 is the European Year of Volunteering.
    The annual conference will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland, next October.