Slovakia: Court asks website to filter public procurement open data

By EDRi · July 27, 2011

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Deutsch: [Slowakei: Gericht fordert Filterung von Open Data zum öffentlichen Auftragswesen |]

Fair-Play Alliance (AFP), a Slovak non-governmental organization operating site, was required by a Bratislava District Court to take
down from the website information related to certain public procurement

The website was created in March 2011 in order to provide “a tool that would
enable journalists and watchdogs to cross-check information about companies
successful in public procurements with influential persons in these

The basic idea was to connect the information on the Public Procurement
bulletin with that in the database of Business register of the Slovak
republic “in a way that would match persons with the names of companies in
which these persons are or once were active, and with financial volume of
the companies’ state contracts,” stated Eva Vozarova from AFP.

Recently, the District Court of Bratislava II has issued a preliminary
injunction, ordering Fair-Play Alliance to withdraw from the website any
information related to a particular private individual, the statutory
representative of the large construction company Strabag which had won good
contracts paid with public money. The decision of the court is that AFP
must remove the financial totals of public procurement orders won by
Strabag, and all other companies in which this person was involved. This
preliminary ruling had no detailed explanation on why this was necessary.

AFP considers the decision of the court inappropriate, unconstitutional and
threatens the right to freedom of speech. Moreover, the website only puts
together already publicly available data. It contains a register of people
known to be behind companies that have benefited from state orders. When
searching for a particular person, the site lists the companies to which the
name of the respective person is or was related to and the state orders
those companies have won, as well as the amounts received from public funds.

The court’s decision is also unclear as, normally, it should instruct on how
to perform the action required. AFP was supposed to refrain from
publishing the persons’ name, surname and title from the website which could directly connect the claimant’s person with
the financial value gained from public procurement. The site however makes
no connections of financial values to the claimant’s name but only filters
information showing the results side by side. The total of occurrences of
the claimant’s name can hardly be technically erased without compromising
the rest of the service.

“The alliance has done nothing else but make possible simultaneous searches
in two publicly accessible databases,” stated lawyer Vladimír Sárnik who
added that the preliminary decision of the court contains both formal and
factual mistakes.

The court decision was issued even before the plaintiff had submitted her
complaint (as the Slovak legal system makes this possible), which could lead
to a paradoxical situation when the preliminary decision may remain in place
for an indefinite period without a formal complaint being submitted.

Ironically, a few days ahead, on 17 June 2011, the site was
awarded first prize at Open Data Challenge, a European competition sponsored
by the Open Knowledge Foundation and backed by the European Commission.

AFP has immediately appealed the court’s preliminary decision.

Court orders removal of public procurement data (4.07.2011)

Why censoring Slovak spending app means bad news for open data (18.07.2011)

Why censoring Slovak spending app means bad news for open data

Fair-play Watchdog Angered by Court ruling (29.06.2011)