The idea behind Data.gov and the increased openness of government information is powerful and has the promise to drive increased accountability and spur innovation. The potential for the data to be used to enhance the lives of citizens and improve intergovernmental effectiveness is inherently clear. As Data.gov launches, it will be exciting to watch it grow and its impact evolve.
However, the potential for the data to be misused is also inherently clear and must be considered and monitored. The data being submitted to Data.gov is expected to be extremely diverse and sourced from agencies throughout the government. While there is clearly no intent to release sensitive datasets, there is a risk that the non-sensitive data will to be mined for information that could be combined and exploited to do harm.
Undoubtedly agencies will consider and will be required to consider the harm that could result from the release of their data. It is impractical to expect agencies to identify and analyze all the possible combinations of their data with the other data resident on the site. Data.gov will be too dynamic and expansive for individual agencies to know if they have inadvertently created a possible threat.
To guard against this scenario there should be a monitoring program, possibly within the Department of Homeland Security, and/or national law enforcement agencies, to monitor and analyze the Data.gov datasets for possible threats. In addition, the public should be encouraged to identify and report any possible risks.