Alberta privacy commissioner has concerns about Open Data Portal
The Alberta government lauded itself Tuesday for what it called “increasing government transparency” by offering the public access to a variety of provincial facts and figures through a new Open Data Portal that is rich in charts and graphs, but short on actual government transparency.
The Open Data Portal will provide Albertans with government-collected data on wide-ranging topics such as environmental activity to Albertans’ drinking habits to birth statistics.
But opposition critics say that while releasing information collected on Albertans is a good first step in being transparent, it’s not quite the government transparency they were looking for.
“I’m not sure this going to benefit everyday Albertans,” said NDP social services critic Deron Bilous. “This is probably one of the least transparent governments that we’ve had in Alberta’s history … this seems like window-dressing and I truly hope it’s not.”
The new portal will act as a central access point for high-quality raw data collected by the provincial government that is open and available to anyone looking for the province’s statistics.
“This government is committed to a new way of doing business,” said Minister of Service Alberta Manmeet Bhullar in a release. “One that values the proactive sharing of information. This portal builds on that commitment.”
Bhullar added that the data could help researchers and business leaders make decisions with raw data.
“In today’s digital landscape, data is a powerful resource — one that can unleash enormous social and economic innovations,” Bhullar said.
Alberta Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton says the government’s move to release the data follows a call by the country’s privacy commissioners to make all information collected by provincial governments accessible to the public.
Clayton was not consulted by the government before the unveiling of the portal. While she is supportive, Clayton expressed concern over implications of individual privacy.
“It’s a very good thing but we do need to be mindful of those privacy considerations and make sure privacy is being built into the design,” she said. “There could be some unforeseen consequences, so it needs to be thoughtful, planned, and done with privacy considerations in mind.”
But the public’s right to see the raw data the government has compiled is crucial, Clayton added.
“That’s a fundamental part of democracy, is to be able to access government information and to understand how decisions are made.”
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