The government of Prince Edward Island has put a captcha in place on their corporations database search. This is in reaction to Peter’s effort to make the data contained within more useful.
I don’t need to point out how ridiculously knee-jerked of a reaction putting a captcha on a search is. Who restricts the search of data with a captcha?! Also, does the provincial government think they can win in a technical battle with geeks? Peter didn’t stop his importing because of the captcha. He stopped his importing because when they put a captcha up it signaled that they didn’t want him to access that data. It would have been much more effective, and cheaper, to simply call Peter and ask him to not scrape the site.
This is public data. This is data that not only should be available to the public, it should be made available with no barriers and in a useful manner. By trying to hide the data it indicates there is a reason to hide the data. Either there are some shady things going on in the data, the government simply believes that we, the general public, aren’t intelligent enough to parse the data, or that it doesn't have a clue as to what to do with this issue. I feel that either way we, as the public, should be outraged. That is our data they are keeping from us.
Hiding data from the public has never ended well for an institution. Knowledge is power. People don’t like institutions lording over them to have all of the power. This probably won’t end well for the current Liberal Government (I’m politically agnostic on PEI – The conservatives would have done the same thing).
Also, does the provincial government realize that by putting in place a visual captcha they have just limited access to public data to those of the population who are visually impaired? I’m not an expert but I think that’s going to rub some people the wrong way.
How do we resolve this? I see a few ways out of this for the Government:
- Apologize, remove the captcha, and encourage Peter to bring back OpenCorporations.org
- Build their own handy-dandy corporate search tool like that powering OpenCorporations.org.
- Put their head in the sand, ignore what’s really going on, and risk being voted out next time round by people like me who are pissed that their government is acting in such a ridiculous manner.
- Leave things as they currently are and start a process to figure out what is the right thing to do. What information should be collected? What parts of that collected data should be available? How should that data be made available in an era of computers and the web? Once they answer those questions then promptly change the official system to line up with the new decisions.
To those of you who own corporations on PEI and who have lobbied to get OpenCorporations.org closed down: A very special "shame on you". Your ability to have a corporation is a grace that we the public have extended to you. It is not yours to hide.OpenCorporations.org is now CloseCorporations.org.