European company data to go open (probably)

Great news – it looks as if Europe is taking a huge step forward for corporate transparency and open data with the new Public Sector Information directive.

Last night, January 22, the European Commission announced that negotiations over the revised Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive had concluded. As a result, the EU has declared company data (including company registers, identifiers, and crucially data on ownership and management) will be made available as open data.

Company data is critical for journalists, governments, businesses and civil society. By taking this step, the EU has, quite simply, transformed access to public data about companies.

Despite Company Registers being part of the public record, a number of jurisdictions charge vast sums for access to this vital data. While some Member States in Europe already make company registers available as open data (including the UK, France, Denmark, Bulgaria and Belgium), a number of European jurisdictions have pushed back.

We’ve been following and engaging closely with the directive, and we’re impressed with the commitment and understanding of many of the key actors involved. We were also helped by a large number of civil society organisations, anti-corruption NGOs, and others who recognise the importance of this data to shine a light on the corporate world, transform business integrity and help the fight against fraud, money laundering and organised crime.

In a press release, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel said:

Public sector information has already been paid for by the taxpayer. Making it more open for re-use benefits the European data economy by enabling new innovative products and services, for example based on artificial intelligence technologies. But beyond the economy, open data from the public sector is also important for our democracy and society because it increases transparency and supports a facts-based public debate.

We’re still getting all the details and analysing the directive, and there will definitely be further fights to come. Nonetheless, this is a really important step that should be celebrated – so thanks to everyone who helped push it through, and here’s to keeping up the fight for open company data!

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