Given the increasing concerns around privacy, how can we balance efforts to improve the use of government data to generate impact and create value?
It's not quite possible Internationally
Dear Esen: The EU is moving forward to tackel this challemnge and dilemma through the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Do you think this is the way forward?
In Australia, these questions are being addressed at a national level by the Open Government Partnership - a community-based network: www.opengovernment.org.au The federal government has shown little interest in engaging with the issues, but a number of specialist Think-tanks and individual academics remain focused on the general subject.
siempre hay soluciones para mejorar, solo es encontrar un buen capital humano para avanzar en nuevas soluciones
One way is through data licensing agreements between government agencies and legitimate research institutions following strict guidelines and under constant monitoring. See:
as an example.
I am glad that you raised this question because it really is something of a dilemma. If you’re a federal agency, you want to protect the privacy of beneficiaries. However, without using individual data —increasingly matched with data from other agencies—it would not be possible to do evaluations of the government programs intended to serve them? How do we know the programs work or what effects they have if we cannot study individual data? This raises privacy concerns, as you point out, but to not do the studies raises other concerns (for clients, taxpayers).
As much as possible data have to be protected from revealing the identities of individuals and the data themselves need to be protected, such as by certified data destruction at the conclusion of projects.
In my neck of the wood, agriculture, access has become in the last 10 years existential. For the G20 countries, the solution has been individual contracts between the agro-industry and individual providers (farmers) which in Europe is now enshrined in a code of conduct, supported by all EU countries because a law at this point in time is not possible. For the rest of the world, it is unfortunately the wild wild west but a few institutions like GODAN, CTA and GFAR are working together on getting an ethical code of conduct for non-G20 countries and especially smallholders to get access to what they need. My point here is that the issue is much less about individual private data being protected (this is easy) but about a level playing access to all those who need access to AG information, which turns out to be on the the five pillar for the future of food safety and sustainability (March 2019 US assessment vision document on the future of food production). The EU code of conduct is spearheaded by COPA/COGECA.
Private Parties and another General Law for the Protection of Personal Data in Possession of Obligated Subjects, which applies to the government in its three areas and to other subjects . The latter goes hand in hand with the Law on transparency and access to information. As a whole, they establish rules regarding information that is considered public and that can be used by the government, by citizens.
To determine if the confidential information of an individual must be published, the so-called "public interest test" is performed. The classification of information is causistic.
What must be considered is that most of the data that is generated is held by companies, which is why the form of agreements to share information is useful. Provided that it is carried out with transparency and under the principle of information to the holders, or in its case so that the data are anonymous or remain dissociated. That in general around legal compliance. It would be worth analyzing the ethical use that is given to that information. With AI programs, machine lerarning that is used for digital government tools or smart cities, as well as affective computing, among others, this information can be used to manipulate people, so the discussion, in addition to legal treatment, should be regarding the ethical use that the government gives to this information. That is the new challenge.