Editorials

What Starts to Happen if We Democratize Data

We’ve talked before about data privacy vs. ownership of data vs. sharing for the “common good.”

I do believe it’s going to be a hard ethical hill to climb with potential for big payoff. Steve Ballmer has just come out with USAFacts. It represents a massive trove of information that you can work against and use to learn more about all sorts of things in the US.

It’s a great example of what happens when we start aggregating meaningful data and making it available. I can’t wait to see what new discoveries come out of it all, and what surprise relationships are found.

But this is just the tip of the spear in terms of what can be learned and applied. l’ve always struggled with big, massive database options that are out there. It seems in so many cases that when they go big, the data usefulness can go small. The typical things started off as weather databases, populations and the like. There are more data stores out there, of course, but it was frustrating.

Here’s a bit of information on the USAFacts project.

This specific project is oriented toward data stores in support of producing reporting on government spending, programs and such.

The work that goes into making this type of major data flow available for review though, is very important.

I still don’t know how we work out protection of information, sharing of information, where the line is on personally identifiable information and who will make those calls. I know people that feel that anything at all to do with them, from color of socks to buying habits to extremely vague things are all personally owned information. I also know people that don’t give their information a second thought, including things like identifiable medical records, financial records, etc.

It’s going to be a very interesting ride.

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