[od-discuss] Registration for accessing open datasets

Andrew Stott andrew.stott at dirdigeng.com
Sun Oct 19 18:32:04 UTC 2014

I agree that we should strongly recommend against registration and login.  It creates a barrier – both actual and perceptual – to access to the information.  Many of the reasons advanced by public agencies (such as that it allows the licensor to inform users about the availability of new data or to engage with its users) can be met by other means (such as allowing users to optionally enrol in a mailing list).


However an absolute ban on registration could makes it difficult for information providers to offer meaningful amounts of information reliably through APIs – and for real time information it sometimes can *only* be offered through APIs.  For instance API keys can be a reasonable mechanism for protecting other users, and the service as a whole, from the behaviour of a single user.


In the UK the Transparency Board’s original “Public Data Principles” said that *as a principle* registration should not be required, but recognised that in API-type cases it might be necessary but in those cases it should be limited to the minimum amount of information needed.  The final text of the Principle is incorporated in the 2012 UK Open Data White Paper [1] as follows:-


“(11) Public data will be available without application or registration, and without requiring details of the user.  It is an important part of the Government’s approach to Open Data that people should be able to use the raw data freely, and requiring application, registration or personal details militates against this. However, both the Government and the Transparency Board recognise that, in certain technical situations (such as APIs), developer keys would be needed in certain circumstances but that these must be readily and quickly available without discrimination, and that the data they access must be available under the Open Government Licence.”


We did have some discussion about registration in the revision of the Open Definition and, as I recall, registration/login was one of use cases that the “no unnecessary obstacles” phrase in 1.3 was intended to cover.  In my view that drafting, and in particular the test of *necessity* and the high barrier it creates, gets the balance right.  Registration/login is only permitted only where, and only to the extent that, there is *no* practical alternative means of achieving the objective.


As Herb suggests, a burdensome registration process could additionally offend against 1.2 of the definition.  If the acceptance of registration is not automatic, it could also offend against the “convenient access” requirement in 1.3 of the definition.


There is an additional consideration too.  Although as Peter Troxler says registration and login may not be particularly burdensome for humans they can be much more difficult to achieve programmatically.  I have seen some “open data” sources which require substantially amounts of reverse engineering to script the login, including overcoming Javascript coding seemingly deliberately included to prevent automation.  This would also offend against the “convenient access” requirement.






[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/open-data-white-paper-unleashing-the-potential




From: od-discuss [mailto:od-discuss-bounces at lists.okfn.org] On Behalf Of Rufus Pollock
Sent: 16 October 2014 09:20
To: Herb Lainchbury
Cc: od-discuss at lists.okfn.org
Subject: Re: [od-discuss] Registration for accessing open datasets


I'd second Herb here that registration requirements could well cause issues with conformance in 1.2 and/or 1.3. In general, we've recommended strongly against registration requirements.




On 15 October 2014 23:25, Herb Lainchbury <herb at dynamic-solutions.com> wrote:

Presumably publishers want their works to be given the best possible opportunity to be used and thus obstacles such as login should be discouraged.


As it stands, the only cost allowed is a one time reproduction cost.  One could argue that registration and login imposes a different kind of cost and significant impact on access and freedom and thus violates 1.2.


1.3 also states, "The work must be provided in a convenient and modifiable form such that there are no unnecessary technological obstacles to the performance of the licensed rights."   Though this is typically seen with regard to formats it can also apply to access as in the case of a requirement to login.  I would argue that login / authentication is both unnecessary and a technological obstacle.





On Wed, Oct 15, 2014 at 3:16 AM, Dr. Peter Troxler <trox at fabfolk.com> wrote:

ihmo the Open Definition is silent on this issue


one could consider


"Knowledge is open if anyone is free to access” … does it become non-free if you have to register and log in? Why? Often, there is not even an identification required for registering … so I’d argue registering/logging in does not impact on “free to access"


"(1.2) The work shall be available ... at no more than a reasonable one-time reproduction cost" … is registering and logging in “more than reasonable”? It’s annoying. Lot’s of things are annoying … you might need to register and login to access the Internet in the first place …


my 2c


On 15 Oct 2014, at 10:32, Lorena Hdez. Quirós <lhquiros at yahoo.es> wrote:


Hi all, 


I would like to know which is your opinion on the need to be registered and logged in several portals for accessing open datasets. Is that requirement compatible with the Open Definition principles?


Best regards,




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