Public access

Data should be accessible to the public

  1. The public should have access to beneficial ownership data.
  2. Data should be accessible without barriers such as payment, identification, or registration requirements.
  3. Published information should be sufficient for users to understand and use the data to achieve policy goals, while respecting relevant privacy laws.
  4. Where information about certain classes of persons (e.g. minors) is exempt from publication, the exemption should be clearly defined and justified.
  5. Where a disclosure system permits exemptions on a case-by-case basis (for example, to mitigate personal safety risk), the grounds for exemption should be clearly defined, proportionate, and fairly applied.
  6. Where data has been exempted from publication, the publicly available data should note that beneficial ownership information is held by authorities but has been exempt from publication.

Having a public beneficial ownership register means that law enforcement, businesses, journalists, and citizens from around the world can easily access information on the beneficial ownership of companies, subject to relevant privacy laws. Having widespread third party use of data can drive up data quality, and increasing the user base beyond authorities will increase impact. For instance, publicly available beneficial ownership data can reduce the cost and complexity of due diligence and risk management for the private sector, thereby leveling the playing field and increasing competitiveness. Evidence shows that data in a public register is used much more widely when it is available without use of barriers such as registration, payment, or identification. This can be particularly important for enabling international users to access the data, for example when tracing transnational links between companies.

Disclosure and publication of beneficial ownership information has legitimate public interest purposes, and can be compliant with data protection and privacy legislation. This can be seen by the current beneficial ownership systems in operation globally, as well as the analysis of the rationale and risks of publishing data about people who are beneficial owners. In practice, this means that the fields of data that are collected and published, (including identifiers) should be developed in the context of local legislation, while maximising availability of information that supports effective data use.

Similarly, the disclosure requirements should cover all classes of natural persons (for example, domestic and foreign citizens who meet the definition of beneficial owner) to avoid creating a loophole that could be exploited in order to avoid disclosing ownership.


Briefing: The case for beneficial ownership as open data

Open data is digital “structured” or “machine-readable” data that is “made available with the technical and legal characteristics necessary for it to be freely used, reused, and redistributed by anyone, anytime, anywhere.” In other words, any user of open beneficial ownership data should be able to access the data, search it freely and/or download it as structured data – for example, a .csv file that can be imported into Excel – , and use it for any purpose.

Inherent in this definition is that the data should be accessible to the public, which we cover in another briefing (“The case for public beneficial ownership data”). Here, we briefly cover the benefits of publishing beneficial ownership as structured data.

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Briefing: The case for public beneficial ownership registers

Many jurisdictions around the world are considering implementing public registers of benefcial ownership. Here, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions by policymakers and implementers about public benefcial ownership data.

View document

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