A “Secret” Open Data Deal between the World Bank and Google?

Shortly after news of the deal between Google and the World Bank to promote Google Map Maker data to foreign governments broke, I filed a formal information request from the World Bank asking for a copy of the agreement between Google and the Bank. The Bank, to its credit, responded well within the 20 working days promised time. But the answer was not positive: the agreement could not be released, I was told, because the information [the agreement] was provided to the Bank in confidence by a third-party [Google]. The Bank's information disclosure policy expressly prohibits the Bank from releasing such information without the express written consent of the third-party. 

That meant Google would need to ok the release of the agreement, a move which some inside the Bank thought would happen. From what we have heard, the Bank asked Google, and Google said no, citing (at least in part) commercial concerns.
Let's step back and take a moment to savor the irony: an agreement that ostensibly promotes "open data" is considered too sensitive to be released publicly. Orwell would be proud.
Most readers of this blog have better things to do than nitpick legal agreements (your humble author included). But these things have real impact and send a strong signal to governments, particularly in the global South when the World Bank is involved. And they need to be met with a response, even if the parties involved can't muster the ability to do the right thing.

No comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *