What does Wikileaks mean for open data initiatives?

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The most recent Wikileaks of approx. 260,000 documents has the focus of governments across the globe.  There is much gnashing of teeth – along the lines of ‘see what happens when you share data’.  And there are many calls for less sharing of information.

This is a matter of national (and international) security when sensitive, confidential information, never intended for public consumption, is leaked.  While some of the tit bits will be of interest to the general public the more serious issues arise where national security or the security of individuals is put at risk.

Has this anything to do with the move towards encouraging governments and/or corporates to publish more data in formats in which people can use the data?  In principle, no.  In practice it may have some impact.

Obviously there is always a risk that someone may leak confidential or secure information.  Security clearance for those handling the information, monitoring of individual behaviour, restrictions on removal of data from secure platforms, etc – are all key measures in safeguarding such information.

This is quite different from a government department sharing data with the public where the data is of public interest e.g. analysis of spend on education by region or by age group, analysis of crime statistics by city or town.  But there are those who will look to confuse the two – where greater accountability is feared.

One final thought re open data – I am not sure that in all situations people have thought through the potential implications of publishing lots of data ie the ability of those receiving the data to cross reference and correlate that data.  In doing so these data analysts may point out trends that have gone unnoticed to date – while the data has resided in separate silos.

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