Adam Mazmanian in FCW:’ A year after the launch of the government’s digital strategy, there’s no official tally of the economic activity generated by the release of government datasets for use in commercial applications.
“We have anecdotal examples, but nothing official yet,” said federal CIO Steven VanRoekel in an invitation-only meeting with reporters at the FOSE conference on May 15. “It’s an area where we have an opportunity to start to talk about this, because it’s starting to tick up a bit, and the numbers are looking pretty good.” (Related story: APIs help agencies say yes)…
The Obama administration is banking on an explosion in the use of federal datasets for commercial and government applications alike. Last week’s executive order and accompanying directive from the Office of Management and Budget tasks agencies with making open and machine readable data the new default setting for government information.
VanRoekel said that the merits of the open data standard don’t necessarily need to be justified by economic activity….
The executive order also spells out privacy concerns arising from the so-called “mosaic effect,’ by which information from disparate datasets can be overlaid to decipher personally identifiable information.”
The White House: “The Obama Administration today took groundbreaking new steps to make information generated and stored by the Federal Government more open and accessible to innovators and the public, to fuel entrepreneurship and economic growth while increasing government transparency and efficiency.
Today’s actions—including an Executive Order signed by the President and an Open Data Policy released by the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy—declare that information is a valuable national asset whose value is multiplied when it is made easily accessible to the public. The Executive Order requires that, going forward, data generated by the government be made available in open, machine-readable formats, while appropriately safeguarding privacy, confidentiality, and security.
The move will make troves of previously inaccessible or unmanageable data easily available to entrepreneurs, researchers, and others who can use those files to generate new products and services, build businesses, and create jobs….
Along with the Executive Order and Open Data Policy, the Administration announced a series of complementary actions:
• A new Data.Gov. In the months ahead, Data.gov, the powerful central hub for open government data, will launch new services that include improved visualization, mapping tools, better context to help locate and understand these data, and robust Application Programming Interface (API) access for developers.
• New open source tools to make data more open and accessible. The US Chief Information Officer and the US Chief Technology Officer are releasing free, open source tools on Github, a site that allows communities of developers to collaboratively develop solutions. This effort, known as Project Open Data, can accelerate the adoption of open data practices by providing plug-and-play tools and best practices to help agencies improve the management and release of open data. For example, one tool released today automatically converts simple spreadsheets and databases into APIs for easier consumption by developers. Anyone, from government agencies to private citizens to local governments and for-profit companies, can freely use and adapt these tools starting immediately.
• Building a 21st century digital government. As part of the Administration’s Digital Government Strategy and Open Data Initiatives in health, energy, education, public safety, finance, and global development, agencies have been working to unlock data from the vaults of government, while continuing to protect privacy and national security. Newly available or improved data sets from these initiatives will be released today and over the coming weeks as part of the one year anniversary of the Digital Government Strategy.
• Continued engagement with entrepreneurs and innovators to leverage government data. The Administration has convened and will continue to bring together companies, organizations, and civil society for a variety of summits to highlight how these innovators use open data to positively impact the public and address important national challenges. In June, Federal agencies will participate in the fourth annual Health Datapalooza, hosted by the nonprofit Health Data Consortium, which will bring together more than 1,800 entrepreneurs, innovators, clinicians, patient advocates, and policymakers for information sessions, presentations, and “code-a-thons” focused on how the power of data can be harnessed to help save lives and improve healthcare for all Americans.
For more information on open data highlights across government visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/library/docsreports”
Tom Cochran (CTO at Atlantic Media) in All Things D: “The currency of the 21st century digital economy is your personal information. It has no transaction costs and does not decrease in value when the supply increases. Contrary to the laws of economics, it may even increase in value with greater supply. The more information you provide to companies, the more value they can extract from it….
Conversely, we tend to ignore this process because the most magnificent, technologically advanced and socially connected digital city is being built from it.
You are living in this growing digital city, and I’m guessing that you really like it here. Unfortunately, you can’t live in this city for free. Your rent is due in the form of your personal information, and you have to accept a certain loss of your privacy….
As a society, we need to define the rules under which our personal information can be mined. Our collective unease is largely the result of not having clear parameters to create an equilibrium between privacy and personalization.
These parameters will help shift our focus from the negatives to the positives, because in return for your personal information, you realize a net benefit with tremendous value.”
MIT Technology Review: “In 1995, the European Union introduced privacy legislation that defined “personal data” as any information that could identify a person, directly or indirectly. The legislators were apparently thinking of things like documents with an identification number, and they wanted them protected just as if they carried your name.
Today, that definition encompasses far more information than those European legislators could ever have imagined—easily more than all the bits and bytes in the entire world when they wrote their law 18 years ago.
Here’s what happened. First, the amount of data created each year has grown exponentially (see figure)…
Much of this data is invisible to people and seems impersonal. But it’s not. What modern data science is finding is that nearly any type of data can be used, much like a fingerprint, to identify the person who created it: your choice of movies on Netflix, the location signals emitted by your cell phone, even your pattern of walking as recorded by a surveillance camera. In effect, the more data there is, the less any of it can be said to be private. We are coming to the point that if the commercial incentives to mine the data are in place, anonymity of any kind may be “algorithmically impossible,” says Princeton University computer scientist Arvind Narayanan.”
Paper by Neil M. Richards in Harvard Law Review. Abstract: “From the Fourth Amendment to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, our culture is full of warnings about state scrutiny of our lives. These warnings are commonplace, but they are rarely very specific. Other than the vague threat of an Orwellian dystopia, as a society we don’t really know why surveillance is bad, and why we should be wary of it. To the extent the answer has something to do with “privacy,” we lack an understanding of what “privacy” means in this context, and why it matters. Developments in government and corporate practices have made this problem more urgent. Although we have laws that protect us against government surveillance, secret government programs cannot be challenged until they are discovered.
… I propose a set of four principles that should guide the future development of surveillance law, allowing for a more appropriate balance between the costs and benefits of government surveillance. First, we must recognize that surveillance transcends the public-private divide. Even if we are ultimately more concerned with government surveillance, any solution must grapple with the complex relationships between government and corporate watchers. Second, we must recognize that secret surveillance is illegitimate, and prohibit the creation of any domestic surveillance programs whose existence is secret. Third, we should recognize that total surveillance is illegitimate and reject the idea that it is acceptable for the government to record all Internet activity without authorization. Fourth, we must recognize that surveillance is harmful. Surveillance menaces intellectual privacy and increases the risk of blackmail, coercion, and discrimination; accordingly, we must recognize surveillance as a harm in constitutional standing doctrine.
Steve Lohr from the New York Times: “Work-force science, in short, is what happens when Big Data meets H.R….Today, every e-mail, instant message, phone call, line of written code and mouse-click leaves a digital signal. These patterns can now be inexpensively collected and mined for insights into how people work and communicate, potentially opening doors to more efficiency and innovation within companies.
Digital technology also makes it possible to conduct and aggregate personality-based assessments, often using online quizzes or games, in far greater detail and numbers than ever before. In the past, studies of worker behavior were typically based on observing a few hundred people at most. Today, studies can include thousands or hundreds of thousands of workers, an exponential leap ahead.
“The heart of science is measurement,” says Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Center for Digital Business at the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T. “We’re seeing a revolution in measurement, and it will revolutionize organizational economics and personnel economics.”
The data-gathering technology, to be sure, raises questions about the limits of worker surveillance. “The larger problem here is that all these workplace metrics are being collected when you as a worker are essentially behind a one-way mirror,” says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group. “You don’t know what data is being collected and how it is used.”
The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, Knopf, 2013
Scientific American: “Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, and Cohen, director of Google Ideas and a foreign policy wonk who has advised Hillary Clinton, deliver their vision of the future in this ambitious, fascinating account. For gadget geeks, the book is filled with tantalizing examples of futuristic goods and services: robotic plumbers; automated haircuts; computers that read body language; and 3-D holographs of weddings projected into the living rooms of relatives who couldn’t attend. Not surprisingly, the authors are bullish on how connectivity—access to the Internet that will soon be nearly universal—will transform education, terrorism, journalism, government, privacy and war. The result, they argue, though not perfect, will be “more egalitarian, more transparent and more interesting than we can even imagine.”
Machine-to-Machine Communications – Connecting Billions of Devices: “This document examines the future of machine-to-machine communication (M2M), with a particular focus on mobile wireless networks. M2M devices are defined, in this paper, as those that are actively communicating using wired and wireless networks, are not computers in the traditional sense and are using the Internet in some form or another. While, at the global level, there are currently around five billion devices connected to mobile networks, this may by some estimates increase to 50 billion by the end of the decade. The report provides examples of some of the uses to which M2M is being put today and its potential to enhance economic and social development. It concludes that to achieve these benefits, however, changes to telecommunication policy and regulatory frameworks may be required. Some of the main areas that will need to be evaluated, and implications of M2M assessed, include: opening access to mobile wholesale markets for firms not providing public telecommunication services; numbering policy; frequency policy; privacy and security; and access to public sector information.”