Open Data Conference: The public interest prevails on the side of the right to information, as opposed to the right to privacy


The public interest establishes the balance between basic human rights and the freedom of expression/informing and privacy. If the public interest prevails over the private interest, then the data and information can be revealed regardless of if they represent a violation of the privacy of a certain individual or a group. This, among other issues, was stated during the “Ethics and anonymization of data” panel, on the second day of the Metamorphosis Foundation’s International conference on the subject of “Data and the culture of openness.” The panelists have stressed the importance of raising the culture and the obligation of institutions about transparency and accountability, with the goal of accomplishing the right of the people to be informed in an appropriate way, writes Portalb.mk.

The Director of the Agency for the protection of the right to free access to public information Plamenka Bojcheva talked about the importance of informing the people. As she said, the institutions have to proactively publish the data they create and is at their disposal, and they are obliged to provide this information to the people to which they will submit a request.

“The right to free access is a basic right and the people have that right and then all physical persons and legal entities from the country and abroad. Free access to information on one hand makes the institutions to be transparent and responsible in front of the people, and on the other hand, it provides complete and timely information about the people that are necessary for their participation in public life. The public’s right to know is at the same time the biggest defense and tool in the fight against corruption. Corruptive practices and the misuse of public resources show that these habits are more developed in secrecy,” said Bojcheva.

The Manager of the Sector for support of the work of the Director of the State Statistical Office, Slobodan Malevski talked about the functioning of this institution that has at its disposal a large number of data that can be used by the people, but also by the institutions and the civic sector.

“As an institution, we are preparing a calendar where we are uploading our publications, research, and products. Firstly, the data is published through press statements, and publications, and less and less on paper and more on the web pages. There we have a wide range of information that is available for the public, in accordance with Eurostat’s policy and it is free. We are delighted by the fact that the business community is requesting more and more of the data that they need for their activities. The units of the local self-government are very important that are receiving the data they need from us including the civic sector. Apart from them, the science community is requesting data for scientific goals. DZS is an entirely open and transparent institution. We are trying to submit a reply to everyone that requests information as fast as we can,” stressed Malevski.

Emilija Ginovska of the Agency for personal data protection stressed that the freedom of expression and the right to privacy are protected by the constitution, and the balance between publishing and not publishing information is whether this information is of public interest.

“The right to privacy is a basic right and is protected and guaranteed by the Constitution, but on the other hand, the freedom of speech and informing is a right that belongs to everyone. Often these two rights collide. The media often find themselves in dire straits to report in a balanced manner regarding the right to privacy of certain individuals and the right of the public to be informed. In some of the enactments of the Law on free access to information of public character that refer to the right of the subjects of personal data and the right of the people, the policies of privacy can be switched off if that is necessary because of the balancing of the fight to freedom of expression and informing. It is such only when public interest is prevailing over the interest of the subjects of personal data,” explained Ginovska.

The expert on internet security, Bozidar Spirovski, through his presentation, focused himself on certain aspects of data security while, by his own words, the transparency, privacy, and trustworthiness are like the “Mexican Blind Alley of the 21century.” He stressed that everyone is requesting transparency and privacy, but as long as it doesn’t refer to them. According to him, the credibility should be restored since the regulations are predominantly discordant, the supervisor is variedly available for the implementation of penalties while the sense of personal awareness and responsibility is relatively low.

“The implementation of strict rules accompanied by mandatory penalties and automatic ban of activity, for e.g. Privacy against corruptive activities, guarantee for anonymity and respecting privacy, including the media and the portals, in order to abolish the personal identification number as primary means of identification,” said Spirovski.

He has two recommendations regarding data publishing: publish that data that is accepted to be lost and be aware that in all of the digital channels YOU are the product. The education of the rights and the responsibilities should be continuous and public, as part of the public broadcasting service.

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