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Information Quality and the Law, or, How to Catch a Difficult Horse



While in Europe legal problems related to information quality have been primarily of academic interest, a publicly recognized debate on information quality, which is also relevant for legal practice, has emerged in the United States. The origin of this discussion was the enactment of section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001, better known as the Federal Data Quality Act, and its implementing  Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies, issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). In essence, the Act and OMB Guidelines are intended to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by Federal agencies. Agencies, in turn, were required to issue their own implementing guidelines by October 1, 2002.

This essay seeks to provide, first, a brief overview over the genesis and content of the Federal Data Quality Act and the implementing OMB Guidelines. Second, against this background, the article examines this set of rules and regulations from the viewpoint of what—at least in the European context—is termed information law. It may be of interest to compare the U.S.’s attempt at a functional and open regulation of information quality by law with earlier contributions of European theorists to this area of law.