Special edition digest! Ministry of Digital Transformation wants to restrict access to open data

02 September 2022
Special edition digest! Ministry of Digital Transformation wants to restrict access to open data
Home > Monitoring > Special edition digest! Ministry of Digital Transformation wants to restrict access to open data

The Ministry of Digital Transformation prepared a draft ordinance proposing to cut access to many open registers as a security measure. We want to explain why such concealment of information will be harmful rather than beneficial. 

Draft Cabinet ordinance by the Ministry of Digital Transformation 

Status: under public discussion, the draft can still be amended. 

Who is affected: citizens, businesses, civic society, MPs, the President, local councilors, community heads, and civil servants. 

Summary of the bill: 

  • open dataset keepers will be allowed to close access to their assets at their discretion while martial law is in effect 
  • the following open datasets will be unavailable while martial law is in effect: 
  • data on MPs, their activities and assets 
  • data on local councilors, including their contact information and working hours 
  • data on presidential and parliamentary candidates, candidates for local councils and community heads, polling stations, election commissions, and the number of voters 
  • the Unified State Register of Legal Entities, Private Entrepreneurs, and Public Organizations, the State Register of Printed Media and Information Agencies, and lists of arbitration managers and certified court experts 
  • the Unified State Register of Declarations of Persons Authorized for State or Local Government Functions and the Unified State Register of Persons Liable for Committing Corruption 
  • reports of political parties on their assets, income, expenses, and liabilities, results of asset declarations full checks 
  • the Register of subjects of natural monopolies and data on monopolies in heat supply, water supply, sewers, and municipal solid waste management 
  • data on vehicles transporting fuel or ethanol 
  • the Register of certified airfields and air navigation service providers 
  • data on natural gas delivery to the natural gas transmission system and gas transportation via pipelines 
  • the Register of Sea Ports and the Register of Waterworks of Sea Ports. 

What is right: the bill restricts access to sensitive information that can be used by the occupant for gaining a strategic advantage. 

What is wrong: 

  • restrictions on access to open data must be well-grounded and reasonable. Currently, Ukraine suffers from aggression by russia which uses terrorist tactics. However, not all information that the Ministry proposes to hide is valuable to the enemy. There is no reason to hide at least some of the proposed registers, in particular, the registers of asset declarations, corrupted officials, and legal entities 
  • the bill will allow information keepers to cut access to any open data while martial law is in effect. The Ministry has not defined any criteria to decide whether the information is valuable to the enemy or whether its disclosure is dangerous to Ukraine 
  • there is no reason to close information about MPs, local councilors, or candidates for elective political offices. It has no value for the enemy. Currently, the official parliamentary website does not provide information about MPs, factions, and groups while this information is of public value and is not dangerous 
  • information from open registers is important to businesses and employees. Big companies are screening their potential employees, in particular, checking criminal records, corruption records, etc. The inability to perform the screening often results in employees being denied a job. On social media, there are complaints from applicants rejected by international companies because registers are closed. 

Additional information: 13 NGOs have criticized the bill in a petition to the Ministry of Digital Transformation. They emphasize that prior to February 24, 2022, there was no precedence when open data from government registers had been used to commit a war crime. Databases fall into the hands of the enemy when it seizes government buildings or through collaborators. 

What’s next: the Cabinet will be able to submit the bill after public consultations and approval from other ministries. Publicity can prevent the Cabinet from falling back to opacity.