April 26, 2011

Jane Yakowitz on Tragedy of the Data Commons

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Jane Yakowitz, a visiting assistant professor at Brooklyn Law School, discusses her new paper about data anonymization and privacy regulation, Tragedy of the Data Commons. Citing privacy concerns, legal scholars and privacy advocates have recently called for tighter restrictions on the collection and dissemination of public research data. Yakowitz first explains why these concerns are overblown, arguing that scholars have misinterpreted the risks of anonymized data sets. She then discusses the social value of the data commons, noting the many useful studies that likely wouldn’t have been possible without a data commons. She finally suggests why the data commons is undervalued, citing disparate reactions to similar statistical releases by OkCupid and Facebook, and offers a few policy recommendations for the data commons.