Canadian Journal of Law and Technology


government data sets, proactive disclosure, open data, privacy protection, data minimization, cross-government communication, privacy risks


In this paper, the authors explore strategies for balancing privacy with transparency in the release of government data and information as part of the growing global open government movement. The issue is important because government data or information may take many forms, may contain many different types of personal information, and may be released in a range of contexts. The legal framework is complex: personal information is typically not released as open data or under access to information regimes; nevertheless, in some cases transparency requirements take precedence over the protection of personal information. The open courts principle, for example, places a strong emphasis on transparency over privacy. The situation is complicated by the availability of technologies that facilitate widespread dissemination of information and that allow for the searching, combining and mining of information in ways that may permit the reidentification of individuals even within anonymized data sets.

This paper identifies a number of strategies designed to assist in identifying whether government data sets or information contain personal information, whether it should be released notwithstanding the presence of the personal information, and what techniques might be used to minimize any possible adverse privacy impacts.