UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Public and private information: the access dichotomy Kelly, Katrina Robertson


Access to information is a topic which has been extensively debated in recent years. Legislative schemes, which provide the public with a right of access to documents held by governmental bodies, have been enacted in numerous jurisdictions. However, the scope of such legislation has never been challenged: the access to information debate has presumed that it is only public sector information which should be subject to access legislation. Although private sector entities hold important and valuable information, such information is presumed to lie outwith the scope of the access debate. The aim of this thesis is to investigate the validity of this assumption. The liberal public/private distinction, which operates to restrict the scope of the access to information debate is examined and critiqued in this thesis. It is argued that the liberal public/private divide is an unsuitable criterion for determining which information should be subject to access legislation. In order to identify a more suitable criterion, it is contended that the theoretical justification for access principles, which can be found in the concept of democracy, must be examined. It is concluded that a suitable test to establish the scope of access legislation might be related to whether information is socially consequential. This approach would move the focus of the access debate from the legal status of the entity in question into a more relevant sphere which would concentrate upon the content and effects of the information.

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