The downside of Open Data

Joshua Chambers at FutureGov: “…Inaccurate public datasets can cause big problems, because apps that feed off of them could be giving out false information. I was struck by this when we reported on an app in Australia that was issuing alerts for forest fires that didn’t exist. The data was coming from public emergency calls, but wasn’t verified before being displayed. This meant that app users would be alerted of all possible fires, but also could be caused unnecessarily panic. The government takes the view that more alerts are better than slower verified ones, but there is the potential for people to become less likely to trust all alerts on the app.
No-one wants to publish inaccurate data, but accuracy takes time and costs money. So we come to a central tension in discussions about open data: is it better to publish more data, with the risk of inaccuracy, or limit publication to datasets which are accurate?
The United Kingdom takes the view that more data is best. I interviewed the UK’s lead official on open data, Paul Maltby, a couple of years ago, and he told me that: “There’s a misnomer here that everything has to be perfect before you can put it out,” adding that “what we’re finding is that, actually, some of the datasets are a bit messy. We try to keep them as high-quality as we can; but other organisations then clean up the data and sell it on”.
Indeed, he noted that some officials use data accuracy as an excuse to not publish information that could hold their departments to account. “There’s sometimes a reluctance to get data out from the civil service; and whilst we see many examples of people understanding the reasons why data has been put to use, I’d say the general default is still not pro-release”.
Other countries take a different view, however. Singapore, for example, publishes much less data than Britain, but has more of a push on making its data accurate to assist startups and app builders….(More)”