Definition of Open Data under Swiss law

Session #1 room A.08 @
Participants: ca. 12
Proposed by Ionutz Iosifesco
Facilitated by Francesca and Oleg

Adapted from the original protocol in German of “Definition von Open Data unter CH-Gesetzgebung”.

Who are we?

  • We provide the data. Fresh to the (cantonal) job.
  • Education and political commitment.
  • Open environmental data. Where are the licenses, what does Open Data mean? Is there a contract? Especially under CH (Swiss laws) and not under OKFN (Open Definition), in this case.
  • Real estate with vision of Open Real Estate data. Points of contact?
  • Confederation. 700 data sets, behind which is mostly a law. When I publish data, there is a confusion between different data sets. Terms of use, disclaimer, what is unclear also regarding Federalism.
  • See the disclaimer on specific website, but what happens next?
  • Lots of personal data, company data, what about reidentification and legal right to link the data? Confidence in data from the city. Resource pressure from Parliament. Financing in the data area.
  • When setting up /, a revision of the law was requested. The offer expands, which does not correspond completely to the law. How do we deal with this, and could we speed up the Parliament?
  • Data from electrical plants, smart metering, households, solar systems, etc. How could we make this available on a portal? This must be public, according to legislation, but at the moment it is not possible because it lacks resources / support.
  • Differences and overlaps to German legislation.
  • Open Knowledge activists, independent developers. Current open smart city data.
    Parliamentary group. Open Source, Open Content, etc…
  • International relations. Rights of citizens* in the digital space.

Participants’ experiences on the topic

Protocol: What are my experiences with it? Why am I interested? What is it about?


  • Definition - what is Open Data?
  • Efficiency - in the admin/political area?
  • Licenses - legal terms?
  • Quality - what do we have to regulate in the data area?


  • There are reference data sets on quality, which we have to pass on (e.g. plot number), and fondamental questions (typology). In the case of more complex data (per cell boundaries), differences may arise between cantons and companies.

  • Definition of Open Data: you may do everything with data, otherwise you do not have it!

  • Legislation unlocks certain types of data. But when I go to the population, I notice a huge problem with reidentification. You bear responsibility.

  • It is clear that we have to regulate usage.

  • Open Data in Switzerland doesn’t need licenses. The idea of is that as much as possible is available on a central portal.

What kind of data is it that is regulated?

  • In Germany, we have municipalities and federal legislation. Legal terms of use lead to a license. With us there is a federal license, a mixture of different terms of use. It is much easier to say (in this case) that “I know (my rights), that it is safe (to use)”. It provides clearer oversight and is easier to control.

Are licenses legally valid in Switzerland?

  • You can only protect something if it is subject to copyright. It is not data.

  • On there is the “Ask” level (only permitted with the permission of the data supplier), which is not Open Data.

  • The federal government often asks under which licence the data is. Spin-offs, start-ups, companies, individuals (are the stakeholders). For very important players it is unclear and the legal basis is missing. For certain data sets we have no information at all, so perhaps we would have to vote? MeteoSwiss went through it, but the end the users did not win. If you could have changed the fee regulation this was an opportunity, but right now it is very complicated (somehow all the figures come down to 0 …)

  • You just take (the data) in the hope that you don’t get sued. When it comes to the terms of use, we have accepted fears above all. After all the regulation you still have to pay something. Will the older data be free? No. MeteoSwiss charges for the data. There are only a few datasets that we release out of international considerations.

Are there different aspects to the topic? How are we progressing?

  • We have spoken with the EDI (the Federal Department of Home Affairs) about Open Data, our data is (compared to health, for example) relatively harmless. At the end a strategy is made, where it is said that it is data of the Federal Government. The Federal Council would then recommend a rejection.

  • We often have geodata in our targets. I don’t know how sensitive they are with regard to data protection. Or when it comes to company data, personal data. With EU law it will probably get even worse in Germany, where in any case the issue will be taken up soon.

  • We have the fee obligation system in Germany: Open Data is cross-subsidized by end users through a “basic service fund”. This ensures completely free data for everyone and useful services (real-time data consoles). When it comes to data protection, we also find it difficult to provide a risk assessment (reverse engineering, etc.). Our practice is to publish data on CC0 (Creative Commons Public Domain), which makes it easy to create legal certainty.

  • We would have to formulate Parliamentary initiatives in such a way that they target specific data environments and authority groups. Since the beginning of the year, we have been working on such drafts. We notice that certain things are easier to accomplish than others.

  • Is there no clear legal definition of Open Data? No, and that is not possible.

  • In public discussion it quickly becomes personal. The end user wants legal certainty, how do we ensure that?

  • If data is “Property of …”, that makes no sense.

What would be the appropriate next steps?

  • We have channels for it (#legal) at

  • We have seen that such a discussion is urgently needed.

  • We have people like Christian Laux who can bring a legal view.

  • I would clarify this question quite clearly. And then discuss, how can we abolish the current situation?

  • These are the right issues. Thank you!

  • Accelerate the implementation. We are working against time now!

  • Where are the resources, what kind of organizations are there today?

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