Per the Freedom of Information Act, US citizens have the right to access information from the federal government. We can visit Data.gov to search the more than 197,000 current datasets currently indexed on the site. While the intent is to leverage that data for the public good, there’s also an enormous amount of information available that could be used by bad actors to gather information about individuals, like the physicist in this article.
For any organization that has privacy obligations and large data sets, it’s crucial to establish good data governance standards to limit the risk of the “mosaic effect” – where overlapping large data sets that may seem individually “de-identified” can result in re-identification through analysis of the aggregate data. Consider what information you’re making accessible, and to whom, and whether or not those with access could use the data to re-identify confidential subjects.
For more on the risk of the mosaic effect, click here.