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2016

In 2016, three tests of the IT platform have been conducted in Nowa Dęba, Olsztyn, and Warsaw (see: Tests ). All the tests involved the use of the IT platform by the municipal authorities in the preparatory stage of public consultations (content and form of information materials, planning the process and its evaluation), as well as the execution stage (publishing information materials, recruiting citizens for debates). In two cases, evaluation of the consultations also took place with the use of the platform (evaluation questionnaires, final reports).

The tests were preceded by methodological conceptualisations and platform development done in previous years. In the course of the project, several articles have been published, discussing not only the methods and tools themselves, but also including a more general methodological and theoretical reflection on such issues as anonymity, accessibility, and data protection (see Results).

Currently, the In Dialogue team is preparing a publication: this collected volume will comprise chapters from team members (focusing on topics emerging from the conducted tests in three cities), as well as an insight into the development of public consultations from an international perspective. Furthermore, in October the team will host an international conference "New perspectives for dialogue: ICT and inclusive decision-making” (see: Conference 2016).


2015

Seminar „The processing of personal data in public consultations”

Date: 27 November 2015, 3pm-5pm

Attendees::

Experts:

  • Jacek Haman, Unit of Statistics, Demography and Mathematical Sociology, Institute of Sociology, University of Warsaw
  • Karolina Miksa, Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights
  • Weronika Kowalik, the Office of the Inspector General for the Personal Data Protection [GIODO]

Invited guests:

  • Aneta Szpaderska, Municipality of Olsztyn, The Bureau of Public Communication and Civic Dialogue
  • Joanna Makocka, National Centre for Research and Development
  • Tomasz Trzaska, Ministry of Digital Affairs

Organisers:

  • Anna Przybylska, University of Warsaw
  • Joanna Wojtyńska, Polish Forum of Disabled Persons
  • Łukasz Nikitin, "Cities on Internet” Association
  • Michał Wasiluk, Warsaw University of Technology
  • Paweł Tymiński, Warsaw University of Technology
  • Piotr Andruszkiewicz, Warsaw University of Technology

In cooperation with:

  • Justyna Wiśniewska, University of Warsaw
  • Marta Kołodziejska, University of Warsaw

The aim of the meeting:

Answering the general question of whether the premises regarding public consultations which emerge from the laws, and those emerging from the methodology of social sciences, may be in conflict, and if so, whether this conflict is ineffaceable.

Regarding public consultations, two issues are of particular interest:

  1. The selection of participants
  2. Creating databases of participants

Programme:

  1. The presentation of the „W Dialogu” [In Dialogue] IT platform’s functionalities for the purpose of planning and conducting public consultations, with a special focus on types of collected data and verification of users (University of Warsaw, Warsaw University of Technology) (15 min.)
  2. The presentation of personal data protection with the use of online “In Dialogue” platform (Warsaw University of Technology) (15 min.)
  3. Experts’ response to questions formulated in the information materials and during the presentation (app. 1 h.)
  4. Open debate (app. 30 min.)

Main conclusions:

  1. Registration and verification of consultations’ participants with the use of personal data is advisable from the point of view of the methodology of social sciences and the quality of results. What is more, according to the Territorial Self-government Act the community of citizens is the subject of public consultations. But, it is not possible to determine who is part of the community without referring to personal data.
  2. The aforementioned Act does not include specific guidelines for conducting consultations, however, it can be inferred from it that consultations are meant to improve the quality of decision-making on behalf of the citizens. This quality, however, is dependent on who is being asked to share their opinion and how the consultations are executed. The basic premise is that consultations should be targeted at citizens whom the discussed issues concern the most. In order for the consultations to fulfil their democratic function, verification of information with the use of personal data is required.
  3. Some city municipalities issue acts of local law that specify how to conduct public consultations. However, these documents do not refer to the verification of participants.
  4. Weronika Kowalik and Karolina Miksa stated that the municipality cannot process personal data for the purpose of consultations as there is not any law regulating such actions.
  5. Tomasz Trzaska suggested that since public consultations at the national level till recently had been conducted with the use of the internet platform konsultacje.gov.pl (programme suspended in 2015), with the involvement of personal data, but without any objections from the GIODO’s side, in effect the laws should not pose a hindrance to the process of registering the participants of consultations by local governments.
  6. Municipalities are allowed to commission the execution of consultations to commercial entities or ngos who may use personal data for the purpose of executing the consultations. If commissioning consultations is consistent with existing laws, while the use of personal data for the purpose of consultations within the municipality is not, then, taking the costs of the commissions into account, it creates a basis for inequalities among cities (depending on their budgets). Moreover, participatory budgeting, the most popular form of public consultations in Poland, in most municipalities is conducted with the use of personal data verification.
  7. It must be verified
    • if the inclusion of specific passages regarding data collection in the municipalities’ resolutions would be an adequate measure to deal with the problem of lack of regulation;
    • if acceptance of personal data processing can take the form of the acceptance of terms and conditions, and how it should be proceeded not impose unnecessary administrative and bureaucratic burdens on the citizens;
    • if, according to the law, personal data verification by an IT system, not involving personal data collection, and executed without third-party interference, is in fact personal data processing.

Possible temporary solutions applied in “In Dialogue”: the use of IT platform for planning and conducting public consultations:
(formulated primarily by Piotr Andruszkiewicz, Jacek Haman and Łukasz Nikitin)

  1. Profile verification on the basis of automated citizen-generated request
    • The municipality administration creates a list of PI numbers of all citizens eligible for participation in consultations. Then it creates an online service enabling a yes-no verification of whether the PI number is on the list. This service does not require any human intermediaries.
    • The citizen creates an account and is requested to type their PI number. The citizen accepts the terms and conditions which inform them of the verification procedure for the purpose of consultations.
    • The service receives the PI number. The service answers, if the PI number is on the list and marks that the particular PI number is already registered (to eliminate double registration). The PI number typed by the citizen is only a request for the database and is not stored.
  2. No verification procedure - creation of profile with an anonymous email address
    • The user registers on the platform by providing an anonymous email (preferably) or anonymised username and encrypted password.
    • The declaration is the sole method of verification in this procedure. However, this is a weak premise.

Both solutions should include:

  1. The user providing an email address for the purpose of communication - the citizen can be informed about upcoming debates via email.
  2. An option to add personal details which are not personal data, such as a year of birth and a street name. Providing such details would not be mandatory, but may be necessary to enable a citizen to partake in selected consultations (for instance, providing one’s street name would be required for the person to partake in consultations for citizens of a particular district).

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