Digital Data Further Blurs Boundaries Between Sectors

Digital Data Further Blurs Boundaries Between Sectors

By Lucy Bernholz

The White House released its report, Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values, yesterday.

The only place the word "nonprofit" appears in the report is in the appendix explaining where public comments to the process came from. The report focuses on the collection, use, sharing, storing, mining, retention, and destruction of personally identifiable data by corporations. Many analysts have already commented that the report was timed and designed to draw attention away from the government's own practices regarding data collection, use, sharing, storing, mining, retention, and destruction of personally identifiable information. The report rightly points out the potential of digital data for efficiency and convenience and the perils it poses in terms of due process, discrimination and privacy. 

Regardless, no attention is paid to the role of digital data in civil society, philanthropy, and the social sector. (This despite the fact that several of the public meetings held to inform the report were coordinated with university and nonprofit partners.)

Nonprofits and foundations do all the same things with digital data that businesses do - they collect, store, use, share, mine, retain, and destroy it. They may not do it on the scale of business or government, although certainly nonprofit research universities, hospitals, and science centers are pretty big. 

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