My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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“Transparency is Not Enough”

At Gov2.0 this week, I gave a talk on the importance of information literacy when addressing transparency of government data:

“Transparency is Not Enough”

I address everything from registered sex offenders to what happens when politicians don’t like data to the complexities of interpretation.  In doing so, I make three key points:

  1. Information is power, but interpretation is more powerful
  2. Data taken out of context can have unintended consequences
  3. Transparency alone is not the great equalizer

My talk is also available on YouTube if you prefer to listen to a different version of the same message (since my crib is what I intended to say and the video is what actually came out of my mouth).

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4 comments to “Transparency is Not Enough”

  • I think Prof. Larry Lessig has mentioned similar opinions with regard to governmental transparency, in connection to systemic corruption. I think its part of his philosophy with Change Congress.

    Is there significant differences and/or similarities between your stance on transparency and Lessig’s?

  • Transparency means context, not just data @dan_munz

  • Hi Danah,

    Great talk at Gov 2.0 Expo! Don’t tell the other presenters, but it was actually my favorite. 🙂 You drove home several points that I have been thinking about over the last few months as I’ve watched Open Gov evolve.

    In fact, I was on a plane from Chicago to DC the night before and my seat-mate was telling me about a software that he developed that could monitor and analyze shopper behavior by using the data from security cameras that are installed in most retail stores. When I asked him *who* would conduct the analysis, he replied: “No one. The software does it automatically.”

    Seriously?

    “Yes.”

    I wish I would have grabbed his card…I would have pointed him to your talk!

  • I loved your speech, and the principle that “transparency is not enough”, but interpretation skills are needed.

    Following this, what is your opinion about the Wikileaks issues? I believe is something more than just “freedom of expression” against “hiding hideous government secrets”.