Government is one of the biggest producers of data—and one of the few that deliver data to the public free of charge. Governments already regulate how organizations may use personal data and myriad other issues related to data. The question, then, isn’t really whether government should get involved in the new data marketplace, but rather how it should take part.
Google 'data as a currency', and you’ll get back search results in the millions. 'What if Web Users Could Sell Their Own Data?' asks a blogger for the New York Times. A story in Information Management highlights 'Big Data Analytics: The Currency of the 21st Century Enterprise.' You’ll find stories heralding big data as the new currency for science, stories on the personal data marketplace, and even stories on stolen data as a currency—not to mention prominent TED talks, World Economic Forum studies, and multiple books on the subject.
The gist of the argument: Personal data has an economic value that can be bought, sold, and traded. Remarkably, one area has gone largely unexplored: the role that government will—or should—play in establishing data as a currency. Given the problems governments face in maintaining stable monetary systems, many data enthusiasts would just as soon have government stay away from this emerging instrument of exchange.Like it or not, that’s not going to happen. For one thing, government is one of the biggest producers of data—and one of the few major producers that deliver data to the public free of charge.
At last count, more than 1 million data sets from governments around the world were available on the web. Second, governments already regulate how organizations may use personal data, what privacy rights individuals have, and myriad other issues involved with the new data marketplace. If anything, regulation is likely to increase in coming years as privacy advocates and consumers step up their demands.