Future-Proofing Transparency: Re-Thinking Public Record Governance For the Age of Big Data

Paper by Beatriz Botero Arcila: “Public records, public deeds, and even open data portals often include personal information that can now be easily accessed online. Yet, for all the recent attention given to informational privacy and data protection, scant literature exists on the governance of personal information that is available in public documents. This Article examines the critical issue of balancing privacy and transparency within public record governance in the age of Big Data.

With Big Data and powerful machine learning algorithms, personal information in public records can easily be used to infer sensitive data about people or aggregated to create a comprehensive personal profile of almost anyone. This information is public and open, however, for many good reasons: ensuring political accountability, facilitating democratic participation, enabling economic transactions, combating illegal activities such as money laundering and terrorism financing, and facilitating. Can the interest in record publicity coexist with the growing ease of deanonymizing and revealing sensitive information about individuals?

This Article addresses this question from a comparative perspective, focusing on US and EU access to information law. The Article shows that the publicity of records was, in the past and not withstanding its presumptive public nature, protected because most people would not trouble themselves to go to public offices to review them, and it was practical impossible to aggregate them to draw extensive profiles about people. Drawing from this insight and contemporary debates on data governance, this Article challenges the binary classification of data as either published or not and proposes a risk-based framework that re-insert that natural friction to public record governance by leveraging techno-legal methods in how information is published and accessed…(More)”.

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