Why Open Data?

There are many positive aspects of Open Data that enrich our society, but there are also critical concerns that are repeatedly voiced. There are also many hurdles for institutions that want to open their data. The most important positions are summarized below.

Arguments for Open Data

Data collected with taxpayers' money (e.g. in public administration and science) should also benefit the general public. Free access to government and administrative data promotes the formation of public opinion and the participation of citizens. This strengthens democracy. The licensing of certain data in public hands is sometimes very expensive (in particular geodata such as ALKIS and ATKIS). This prevents their widespread use and inhibits innovation (Seuß, 2015).

If an open dataset of sufficient quality is available for re-use, the costs can be saved that would be required to collect or acquire the information itself. Access to data is a prerequisite for the continuous development of scientific work and results. (Klessmann et al., 2012, S. 102)

Open access to data and facts stimulates new ideas and innovation. The general disclosure of data leads to a faster flow of information and exchange within and between governments, organisations and other institutions. Open data and information can be traced and independently verified by anyone. This makes it easier to uncover and correct misinformation. The quality of the data can thus be increased.

Arguments against Open Data

Copyright, trademark and patent protection are often cited as arguments against openness. Misuse of data is facilitated by its disclosure and the right to alter it. Data could be intentionally or unintentionally falsified. (Seuß, 2015)

There may be distortions of competition for private companies because their privately financed databases may compete with publicly financed data (for instance open administrative data or geodata, e.g. aerial photographs, topographic data and geocoded address databases). (Seuß, 2015)

There is a lack of standards, uniform data quality and uniform and clearly understandable licensing models for the meaningful use of open geodata (Seuß, 2015)

Open data was originally collected for the internal purposes of an organization. Since use by third parties was often not considered, there is often a lack of context, metadata and a suitable structure to interpret and reuse the data. (Public) organizations that cannot (fully) comply with the Open Data standards will suffer image damage as a result. Their partial efforts and contributions to achieving the Open Data objectives (e.g. transparency, innovation, economic growth) have so far not received sufficient recognition. (Bargh et al., 2016)

Discuss it:

  1. Which of the positions listed here would you agree with?
  2. Are there arguments that you consider to be irrelevant, outdated or unfounded? If so, for what reason?
  3. How do you assess the risk of misuse of open data?