This week David Eaves joined our discussion and shared his views and experiences about open government to our class. The Internet age has not necessarily changed government yet, but has raised many questions in the eyes of the citizens about government. It appears that our government is now beginning to change in response to the digital age. One of the biggest issues is transparency. In the age of open source software, open source government and disclosure now seems like a right that citizens will demand if they start knowing more about it. Issues that will increase the knowledge about government transparency will be when governments take away certain aspects of disclosure after previous governments instituted greater clarity. Once people are “given” something (greater transparency in this example), if it is taken away, they feel like a right of theirs has been violated. This is becoming apparent in the current state of US open government.

The Trump administration took down the White House data portal that was launched under the Obama administration. This disproves the theory that once there is transparency, it will stick. However, once there was transparency, it will stick in the minds of citizens and hopefully drive them to fight for greater access to an open government. This also raises a question as to why the current administration felt the need to shut down this source of transparency. In today’s age, political agenda tends to drive transparency which shows why certain documents were taken of the White House site almost immediately after Trump became president.

When certain types of federal data started becoming widely open sourced (such as weather data), many improvements started occurring around the country. Storms could be tracked and forecasted much more easily which helps with storm prevention and saves lives. Open sourced GPS data also increased efficiency around the country, helping people travel quicker which reduces emissions too. The improvements made with the transparency of this federal data shows how by taking down certain documents, Trump’s administration is making it harder for people to make positive changes to fields that are not part of this governments agenda such as climate change.

In our discussion, we also talked about identification and privacy. Privacy is strikingly variant from country to country. This shows that privacy is relative. It is relative to government, to community, to the issues one’s country faces, etc. The digital age has made privacy and now identity pressing issues. Analyzing identity through a lens of personal privacy raises questions regarding how much a government, or other organization should know about an individual. India is beginning to implement a program where they scan all the fingerprints and iris of a person in order to validate their identity. This information is too important for the private sector to run though, so changes must be made. The core function of government in the field of identity is to decipher who is a citizen vs. who is not a citizen.

The age of the Internet is currently changing. We have lived through the first approximately 100 years where the Internet helped individuals (this is similar to the situation with the printing press). Now, the Internet is transitioning into an age where it will help the state and not the individual. Connecting this transition of ages back to AI, I can see how the first say 100 years of AI can be very helpful to individuals, and then will transition the help to the state because so much data has been collected that will help the government more than individuals. I wonder what the Internet will be viewed as in a generation from now. Growing up with the Internet always there has made me blindly trust it, but my parents are still skeptical of it. In a generation, will kids grow up skeptical of the Internet?

Selective Transparency

One thought on “Selective Transparency

  • October 29, 2017 at 3:29 pm
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    A nice set of observations, although I will point out that the Internet has a way to go before it reaches 100 (thank goodness). But it has certainly evolved quickly…

    I find your observations about privacy particularly interesting; if this is a topic that you find interesting I hope to see you in CS 105 sometime soon. I think there are a lot of differences in how privacy is viewed in different countries and cultures, but there does seem to be a common core around being let alone or having the personal autonomy for some activities. The differences are often around who you are worried about violating your privacy (in the U.S. we worry about the government; in Europe they worry about companies). It makes for interesting discussions…

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