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Fighting Phantom Firms in the UK: From Opening Up Datasets to Reshaping Data Infrastructures?

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"Fighting Phantom Firms in the UK: From Opening Up Datasets to Reshaping Data Infrastructures?". Working paper presented at the Open Data Research Symposium at the 3rd International Open Government Data Conference in Ottawa, on May 27th 2015. The paper draws on research undertaken as part of the EU H2020 funded ROUTE-TO-PA project.

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Fighting Phantom Firms in the UK: From Opening Up Datasets to Reshaping Data Infrastructures?

  1. 1. Fighting Phantom Firms in the UK:
 From Opening Up Datasets to Reshaping Data Infrastructures? 27th May 2015,Open Data Research Symposium Jonathan Gray | jonathangray.org | @jwyg" Tim Davies | timdavies.org.uk | @timdavies
  2. 2. The politics of public information
  3. 3. Talk of “release”, “disclosure”, “publication”, “transparency”, “opening up” of public data
  4. 4. From the disclosure of datasets
 to shaping data infrastructures?
  5. 5. Two parts: ! 1. Reshaping the data infrastructure for company ownership in the UK; 2. Implications for open data initiatives and data activism.
  6. 6. Two parts: ! 1. Reshaping the data infrastructure for company ownership in the UK;" 2. Implications for open data initiatives and data activism.
  7. 7. Open Government Partnership Summit, October 2013
  8. 8. Joint Stock Companies Acts of 1844 and 1856
  9. 9. “Nominal ownership”
 Who is officially named as the owner?
  10. 10. “Beneficial ownership”" Who benefits from ownership and control?
  11. 11. Beneficial ownership: ! • UK law in 19th century; • Origins in trust law 11th and 12th century; • International tax rules (OECD) from 1970s; • “Financial Action Task Force” (FATF) in relation to money laundering and illicit financial flows.
  12. 12. Civil society campaigning in the UK commencing around 2012
  13. 13. G8 “Lough Erne Declaration” in June 2013
  14. 14. “Transparency and Trust” consultation in July 2013
  15. 15. Civil society actors included: ! • Action Aid • Avaaz • CAFOD • Christian Aid • European Network on Debt and Development • Financial Transparency Coalition • Global Witness • IF campaign • Involve • ONE • OpenCorporates • Open Knowledge • Oxfam • Publish What You Pay UK • Save The Children • Tax Justice Network • Tax Research UK • Tearfund • The Rules • The Transparency and Accountability Initiative • Transparency International UK • War on Want • World Development Movement
  16. 16. Beneficial ownership advocacy: ! • Consultation responses; • Joint open letters; • Petitions; • Public events; • Media engagement.
  17. 17. Beneficial ownership advocacy: ! • Meetings as part of OGP National Action Plan; • Cost-benefit analysis of public register; • Analysis of not publishing different data fields; • Opinion polls to gauge support of broader publics; • Addressing concerns around privacy, data protection and administrative burden; • Petition of 22,000 business owners; • Evidence of data quality improvements and personal information as part of public record; • Software development and design to mock up how a public register might look and function.
  18. 18. Two parts: ! 1. Reshaping the data infrastructure for company ownership in the UK; 2. Implications for open data initiatives and data activism.
  19. 19. In case of beneficial ownership advocacy, the disclosure of existing datasets was not enough.
  20. 20. Civil society organisations had to undertake a more creative, sustained and holistic engagement with shaping and influencing the development of data infrastructures as socio-technical systems.
  21. 21. This included research and advocacy around: ! • Costs, functionalities and user interfaces of software systems that would run the register; • Changes to primary and secondary legislation; • Additional administrative requirements and their impacts on different actors inside and outside the public sector.
  22. 22. Campaigners had to look beyond the question of what information is released, towards the question of what information is collected and generated by the public sector in the first place, how this is information is generated through data infrastructures.
  23. 23. The campaign for public registries of beneficial ownership as an example of a deeper intervention into the composition of public data systems.
  24. 24. Highlights social and political work that goes into the creation of data infrastructures.
  25. 25. Contingent events and alignment of different interests: ! • UK hosting both the G8 and the OGP; • Prime Minister’s personal interest in the topic; • Controversies around tax avoidance by large multinational companies and illicit capital flight in the wake of the Arab Spring; • Anti-corruption advocacy around resource extraction and international development; • Increasing public trust and confidence in UK businesses.
  26. 26. Two other considerations: (i) who uses information, (ii) how information acts.
  27. 27. “Accountability paths”
  28. 28. From “information as resource” to “information as agent”. ! (Sandra Braman, Change of State, MIT Press, 2009)
  29. 29. “Participatory data infrastructures”
  30. 30. To what extent do data infrastructures address needs and interests of civil society actors?
  31. 31. Role of public information systems in shaping and organising collective life.
  32. 32. How to broaden the publics that shape data as well as the publics that use it.
  33. 33. Bringing data infrastructures into orbits of democratic political life?
  34. 34. Legal, social and technical measures for making open data initiatives more responsive to needs of civil society?
  35. 35. ROUTE TO PA: http://routetopa.eu
  36. 36. Jonathan Gray | jonathangray.org | @jwyg" Tim Davies | timdavies.org.uk | @timdavies

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