opinion

COLUMN: Protect transparency in the data republic



Knowing is half the battle, and, when it comes to privacy and technology, the other half might be what you don’t know.

In the wake of the Panama Papers leak, people have raised concerns about how much we should know about data.

The investments of the parents of British Prime Minster David Cameron in the tax-evasive firm Mossack Fonseca might seem contradictory to Cameron’s own work in pushing for transparency of financial records.

On our side of the pond, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have, respectively, withheld Wall Street speeches and tax returns from the general public.

Transparency, including access to and accountability for information, is lost in our society.

We need to prioritize and protect it as much as we can to address national security concerns of the data republic of our society.

Zeynep Tufekci, a fellow at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University, said those with access to big data and behavioral science techniques have unaccountable methods of persuasion and social engineering.

“Information wants to be free,” said activist Aaron Swartz, who faced unreasonably severe charges for downloading academic journal articles for open access.

Gavin Starks, CEO of world-leading digital distributor CI, said this open access culture of sharing can “enable peer support to influence returns radically for everyone, improving operations, customer interactions, supply chain efficiencies and the quality of products and services.”

We should keep some types of information available to everyone because it can, like public infrastructure, form the foundation of our data republic.

I asked Joel whether the idea of an entirely liberated flow of information were possible or if it were too idealistic. Does information truly want to be free?

Joel said an amount of freedom of information is necessary and addresses many concerns people might have, but a completely unregulated flow can’t be fully embraced.

Having said that, Joel also made sure to emphasize the individual’s liberties, such as the tolerance of Muslim citizens when fighting terrorism.

He gave an example of a physician taking precautions to disclose information only with adequate consent of the patient to illustrate the need for privacy.

As starry-eyed and liberating a future that champions the lack of government intervention might be, we also have to recognize the limits of transparency.

Algorithms may lose their value and be manipulated for other purposes, the Economist reported.

Our drive to transparency should prevent this manipulation by establishing trusted authority, such as Google’s artificial intelligence committee.

Technology is neither inherently good nor evil. It depends on how we use it. That’s why no one man should have all that data.

Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

More in Opinion



Comments powered by Disqus