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The enhanced development of information and communication technologies in government has created new opportunities for agencies to collect, share and re-use data. At the same time, the commercial worth of governmental data sets and value-added information products/services have increased. Government agencies are finding that data they have routinely collected to fulfil their statutory and business functions can now more easily be re-used for commercial purposes. The prospect of increasing revenue through the commercial re-use of public sector information (PSI) is clearly appealing for governments and their agencies. Examples of PSI that have been re-used commercially include residential property transaction details, land title information, ordanance survey data and street address registers. This article examines those shifting boundaries, particularly in light of information privacy and national security concerns arising from governmental commercialization of PSI that includes personal information. I seek to show that information privacy laws can be subverted in the face of overt commercialization by government agencies; that commercialization can have a negative impact on individuals; and can also give rise to societal concerns relating to privacy, security, and the open governance of the information society.
Date of Publication: Spring 2009