GeoNetwork plug-in for GDPR data is widely applicable

Oct 14, 2019

GeoCat has developed a plug-in for GeoNetwork to extend data catalogs with a GDPR data registry. RIVM initiated the development of this open source tool. The plug-in is an example of how organisations can benefit from the knowledge and experience of the geo-community in working with standards and sharing datasets. GeoCat is currently developing a second version of the plug-in, for use in other catalogs.

RIVM (the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) has a central role in infectious disease control, public health and health care, and environment. A lot of RIVM data contain information relating to privacy. For example administrative data and information about personal health for public health research.


The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) orders organisations and businesses to record protection, use and necessity of every set of data with privacy sensitive issues in a registry. Some organisations ordered a special tool to do so. RIVM want to concentrate all datasets in one catalog, to enhance their visibility and findability, and lower the risk of losing data.

RIVM use GeoNetwork as central data registry. GeoNetwork is an open source catalog to manage data and is used in Spatial Data Infrastructures worldwide. Also, RIVM opted for an open source solution, as the plug-in would be developed with public money, states information officer Patrick Brooijmans of RIVM.

Experience in geo-domain

The Dutch institute approached GeoCat for their vision and data strategy. GeoCat software developer Paul van Genuchten: ‘In the geo-domain we are having ten, twenty years of experience in standardisation of catalogs, the development of protocols for their mutual communication, to ensure they can be discovered and searched.’

In this case GeoCat developed a GeoNetwork plug-in conform the ISO 19115 extension conventions. Paul: ‘We have, simply said, put the GPDR on top, as an additional element.’ The plug-in helps you to register issues like type of data, their content, how long they will be stored, who is responsible for the data, and why they were collected.

Meta data

The plug-in also contains a filter for open data: you must indicate whether public publication is allowed, and if so, give permission for publication. In case of the RIVM, the metadata will then be published in the governmental open data portal or the Dutch National Georegister.

An additional effect of the GDPR plug-in was the rise of number of datasets registered in the central catalog, although writing meta data still scares people off. Unnecessary, according to Patrick Brooijmans, RIVM: ‘These days, every research has to contain a data management plan. This stands for three quarter of the meta data. Generally, a data manager can help you out with the rest. We are trying to make this as easy as possible for our employees.’ Another advantage is that RIVM now can report directly from GeoNetwork how personal data are processed.

Improved accessibility of datasets

The operation stimulated RIVM also to add more datasets to GeoNetwork. For example their geodata datasets and RIVM datasets that currently are only registred in the National GeoRegistry. Altogether, this should result in a better accessibility of about a 1,000 datasets within RIVM. Next, RIVM wants to connect GeoNetwork to her ‘Enterprise search’. Then an intranet search will also render datasets.

Paul, summarising: ‘This case clearly shows how companies and organisations can benefit from the GeoNetwork experiences with development of standards and data exchange. The geo-community is rich in standards. We are proud of this.’

GDPR plug-in for GeoNetwork

Interested in the GDPR plug-in for GeoNetwork? You can find it at For more information, please contact Paul at

This in an English edit of an article that appeared in Dutch in Geo-Info (2019-3), magazine of Geo-Informatie Nederland. Here you can find the original article in Dutch (pdf opens in new window).

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