The choice to opt-out

Written by Manon den Dunnen When I volunteered to write a blog from the perspective of a random citizen, I didn't have a clue about all the possibilities. It was like entering a candy store, too much to choose from, but also a lot stored away behind locks that I...

Written by Manon den Dunnen

When I volunteered to write a blog from the perspective of a random citizen, I didn’t have a clue about all the possibilities. It was like entering a candy store, too much to choose from, but also a lot stored away behind locks that I can’t open for lack of money and/or knowledge.

Looking into “Open Data” I realized I might be a random citizen, but certainly not an average citizen, as I have some knowledge of IT. In short: open data is raw data that can be shared and used by anyone for further development. The idea is that when the government provides us with the data they have collected on us, it will make them more transparent and accountable. In addition, it is expected that it will stimulate creativity and the development of smart solutions. And this is indeed what happens, especially in the area of transport a lot of smart solutions have or are being developed as one can read in the other blogs on this site.

The site Amsterdamopendata.nl offers a variety of datasets (352), as well as a platform to share ideas and apps. Browsing through it I came to realize that, although I do favor the initiative, I also have some concerns. The data seems aggregated and therefore anonymous. But looking for example at the energy data, my house pops up as quite energy efficient, however I know for a fact that I owe this to my neighbors (I started isolating only this year). So I’m lucky with them because this will raise the price of my house, especially as the rest of the neighborhood seems energy inefficient! But what if it were the other way around? And wouldn’t my neighbors be better off if my data weren’t included?

As long as we’re talking about really anonymous data like how to efficiently find a parking spot, I’m in favor! But otherwise I think we need some guarantees against improper or erroneous use. One can think of:

  1. How anonymous is the data? What if a big company (data wise) combines it with their own personalized datasets? As marketing is concerned, they have much to gain…
  2. What about the quality of the data? Public services have a bad reputation, in the past people unknown to me have been registered at my address…
  3. And what about the interpretation? Like most of us I’m not capable to analyze raw data, so I’m dependent on others to filter and visualize it. But the algorithms (filters) they use determine the outcome and therefore the meaning given to it. How transparent is that…

The government rightly takes the initiative to unlock the data, but that does not absolve them of the responsibility to monitor the use. Therefore these issues must be addressed in the near future! Or… an opt-out button should be provided.


About Manon den Dunnen

Manon specializes on the digital transformation of society. She is fascinated by the way digitazion facilitates new concepts like the sharing economy, a more efficient use of resources, transparency and local online communities. But above all she is a citizen of Amsterdam which she experiences as a smart city full of inspiration, innovation and initiative! For the Amsterdam Smart City Event she writes a series of 4 blogs sharing her findings.

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