Scraping data from the European Parliament

At the excellent (as usual) FSCONS conference in Gothenburg today, Erik Josefsson gave a talk about Free Software politics in the European Parliament. He mentioned some very useful tools that help us keep track of what’s going on in the parliament, and use our influence to change Europe’s politics for the better, one decision at a time.

Those tools are:

ParlTrack – “combines dossiers, MEPs, vote results and committee agendas into a unique database and allows the tracking of dossiers using email and RSS. Most of the data displayed is also available for further processing in JSON format. Using Parltrack it’s easy to see at a glance which dossiers are being handled by committees and MEPs.”

Pippi Longstrings – lets you keep track of blocks of texts and standing expressions as they get copied and pasted from one policy document to another.

Political Memory – run by La Quadrature du Net, it provides a “toolkit for finding information about Members of European Parliament (MEPs), including contact info and votes related to Internet issues.”

These tools are wonderful, based on Free Software, and developed and run by very dedicated people. They’re very good at collecting data from the parliament’s own website and a variety of other sources. But it’s a shame that we even need them. The European Parliament is a body that is supposed to represent us all. Information about policy decisions that affect us all should be made publicly available by default.

Europe’s citizens should not be forced to scavenge for information that they have a right to.