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Declaration on Parliamentary Openness [Draft Commentary]

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Title V - Enabling Electronic Access and Analysis of Parliamentary Information

Sec. 38. Guaranteeing Citizen Privacy

Parliamentary websites shall have a clear and concise privacy policy to let citizens know how their personal information is being used. Parliament shall not employ membership or registration requirements that restrict public access to information on parliamentary websites or permit the tracking of personally identifiable information without explicit consent.

Because parliamentary information ultimately belongs to the public, citizens have a right to access this information in an environment free of discrimination or fear of discrimination. While it is common for websites to collect limited user information, parliamentary websites should restrict the collection of personal information to ensure that citizens’ right to this information is respected. Privacy policies should be clearly and concisely stated on parliamentary websites so that users know what information is being collected and how it may be used.

As the World e-Parliament Report 2008 explains, “[p]rivacy and security are essential elements in ensuring the integrity of parliamentary transparency and guaranteeing the rights of citizens to confidential communication. These requirements cannot be overlooked and their importance cannot be underestimated… Citizens must be assured that communications sent to their representatives, along with information about themselves, remain confidential if they so wish.”[1] The World e-Parliament Report 2010 reports, in its survey of a majority of the world’s parliaments, that 27% of parliamentary websites contain a written privacy policy.[2]   The Sunlight Foundation defines non-discriminatory access to data as the ability for any person to “access the data at any time without having to identify him/herself or provide any justification for doing so.” Barriers to accessing this information can include registration or membership requirements as well as “the use of 'walled garden', which is when only some applications are allowed access to data.”[3]  A WBI report on access to information echoes the idea that “no one should have to state reason for their request for information.”[4]

According to the privacy policy adopted by the Legislature of Liberia, “The Legislature believes people have the right to know the type of information the Legislature collects, how it is protected and used, and the circumstances under which it may be disclosed. For easy access, this Privacy Policy Statement is posted in the page footer on the homepage, all internal website pages and at every point where personally identifiable information may be requested.”[5] The Brazilian House of Representatives standard states that data shall be available to all without registration and that “the data are not subject to any regulation of copyrights, patents, intellectual property or trade secrets. Reasonable restrictions relating to privacy, security and access privileges may be allowed.”[6] 

[1] Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, World e-Parliaments Report 2008, IPU-UNDESA, p. 17.

[2] Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, World e-Parliaments Report 2010, IPU-UNDESA, p. 81.

[3] Sunlight Foundation, Ten Principles for Opening up Government Information, 2012, Accessed, 5/14/2012.

[4] Toby Mendel. Parliament and Access to Information: Working for Transparent Governance, CPA-WBI, §4.1.

[5] Website of the Legislature of Liberia, Accessed 6/12/2012.

[6] Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, Dados Abertos da Camara dos Deputados (Open Data from the Chamber of Deputies), 2011, p. 2.