The Future of Data Freedom

Report: Insecurity of officials hinders a broader publication of public information

Datafication of the Estonian society creates ever increasing challenges both for public and private sectors, says the Foresight Centre brief report “Pitfalls of Using Public Data in Estonia”. The crucial pitfalls highlighted in the report concern the different standards applied to national data bases and the casual setting of access restrictions.

Dokumendid. Foto Tingey

“Large scale publication of information and data bases increases societal transparency, reduces the risk of corruption, and allows the public sector to develop products and services that increase wellbeing,” said Johanna Vallistu, Expert of the Foresight Centre. “Since the regulation concerning data is complex, officials are nervous to assume the responsibility for issuing data. As a consequence of this, we are seeing cases where access to public information is per se restricted for 75 years.”

Vallistu also believes that the valid Public Information Act favours setting casual access restrictions. “The role of the Data Protection Inspectorate is also double-edged and contradictory: simultaneously protecting personal information and promoting access to information,” Vallistu added.

In 2022, the Foresight Centre commissioned a qualitative study which showed that a broader disclosure of data is a difficult task for the public sector because of different standards and procedures applied to data bases, as well as the large volume of data requests. “Representatives of the private sector list the slow pace of data requests, unclear regulation, justification requirement, and difficulty of finding the data as the encountered problems,” Vallistu said.

In order to study the obstacles linked to the right of access and practical considerations, interviews were conducted with representatives of public and private sectors. The interviewees included representatives of the private sector and businesses, civil society, public authorities, media, and judicial power.

You can read the brief report here (in Estonian).

In 2022, the study projects of the Foresight Centre include the future of the freedom of information, which examines the key development trends and options in the further development of Estonia’s data economy and data-driven governance until 2035. One component in monitoring the freedom of information is also the study of the use of public information, which explores the legal and practical usability of public information in Estonia.

The Foresight Centre is a think tank at the Riigikogu that analyses long-term developments in society and economy. The Centre conducts research projects to analyse the long-term developments in the Estonian society, and to identify new trends and development directions.

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