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This morning UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced the UK’s support for public registers of beneficial ownership, or who really owns companies, at the Open Government Partnership Summit in London.
In his speech he said:
I’m delighted to announce that not only is that register going to go ahead – but that it’s also going to be open to the public.
[…] there are so many wider benefits to making this information available to everyone.
It’s better for businesses here – who will be able to better identify who really owns the companies they’re trading with.
It’s better for developing countries – who will have easy access to all this data, without submitting endless requests for each line of enquiry.
And it’s better for us all to have an open system which everyone has access to – the more eyes that look at this information, the more accurate it will be.
This is a complete world first on transparency and I’m proud Britain is leading the way.
And today I call on the rest of the world to join us in this journey.
[…] together we can close the door on these shadowy, corrupt, illegal practices once and for all.
Currently true company ownership is secret and shell companies are often used to mask the identities of people engaged in a wide variety of illegal activities – from organised crime to corruption, tax evasion to terrorist financing.
The Open Knowledge Foundation is delighted to see the UK taking international leadership on this issue, and we hope the UK’s historic step will encourage other countries to follow suit.
Furthermore we hope that the UK will not only make beneficial ownership information public, but open and machine readable in accordance with the Open Data Charter launched at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland earlier this year.
Laura James, CEO of the Open Knowledge Foundation commented: “Making true company ownership public was the single biggest ask from civil society organisations engaging with the UK government around its National Action Plan, and one of the biggest sticking points in talks leading up to today’s summit. Hence we’re very pleased to see the UK taking the lead on this issue and cracking down on company secrecy.”
Dr. Jonathan Gray is Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, where he is currently writing a book on data worlds. He is also Cofounder of the Public Data Lab; and Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam) and the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris). More about his work can be found at jonathangray.org and he tweets at @jwyg.