right of public access to spatial data sets and spatial data services

I was reading the ICO’s Annual Report and I noticed on page 7 that the list of laws that the ICO enforces now includes:

“The Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community Regulations 2009” (The regulations are subject to a staged implementation – I don’t fully understand the timing of the implementation yet).

I found the regulations on statutelaw under the shorter title ‘the INSPIRE Regulations 2009‘. I have also found the explanatory memorandum.

There is Defra site as well: http://location.defra.gov.uk/inspire/

The impact of these regulations could be interesting for supporters of increased transparency. A summary follows:

Summary of INSPIRE Regulations

The regulations apply to public authorities and “spatial data” means any data with a direct or indirect reference to a specific location or geographical area.

Public authority is defined in much the same way as in the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, it includes almost all bodies which people would normally call public bodies and it is arguable that water companies, the National Grid etc might also be covered.

Regulation 6
A public authority or a third party must create metadata in relation to any spatial data set or spatial data service for which that authority or third party is responsible.

Regulation 7
A public authority or a third party must establish and operate certain services in relation to spatial data sets:

“making it possible to search for spatial data sets and spatial data services on the basis of the content of the corresponding metadata”

“view services making it possible, as a minimum, to display, navigate, zoom in and out, pan, or overlay viewable spatial data sets and to display legend information”

“download services, enabling copies of spatial data sets, or parts of such sets, to be downloaded and, where practicable, accessed directly;”

“transformation services, enabling spatial data sets to be transformed with a view to achieving interoperability”

Regulation 8
Is about linking spatial data sets together.

Regulation 9
Access by the public to a spatial data set or spatial data service by means of a service specified in regulation 7 may be limited only if there is an ‘exemption’ available. There are about ten exemptions relating to personal data, national security, the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information, protection of the environment and so on and except for personal data they are all subject to a public interest test.

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