Why Open Data Is Vital for Our Future

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Data has been a hot topic in the past few years. It is used for a wide range of purposes, including market analysis, identifying user behavior, and even for making crucial decisions at the government level. Everything relies on data, pushing the technology behind data processing and analysis further.

Data collection is a part of the process. Despite the many regulations limiting how data collection can be performed, privacy remains a big concern among users. Everyone from government agencies to advertisers is actively collecting data from users – and the public in general. Some companies are web scraping to get every bit of data available online. Smartproxy experts give very detailed explanations on their blog about web scraping.

On the other side is the open data initiative. It is designed to solve some of society’s problems by allowing everyone to develop solutions with the best available data. It is a democratization of data, moving data collection and processing from large companies and private entities to the public as a whole. Dozens of countries and cities are supporting open data already, giving everyone free API access to government data.

Democratization of Data

There are a few things that open data offers, starting with the anonymity of data in general. Instead of granting access to the granular data of users or relying on malicious ways to scrape and collect data, data becomes something that is available to everyone without its tracking and profiling nature. Instead of identifying users, data is used to identify larger trends and large group behaviors.

Open data allows for collected data to be made accessible to more parties. Everyone, including you and me, can take advantage of open data without harming others’ privacy. You can collect insights and details about trends immediately instead of collecting data manually; the lack of processing requirement is a huge plus on its own.

Open data opens up new possibilities. Research entities can immediately turn to data to support their studies. There is no need to conduct manual surveys of the population. The same is true for companies who want to gain a better understanding of the public or the market specifically. Data about market segments can also be made available.

These opportunities lead to better use of data by responsible entities. Since the entire body of data is managed collectively and publicly, enforcing privacy regulations and maintaining data neutrality become tasks that are easy to manage. These benefits are among the reasons why open data is widely supported.

Growing Support for Open Data

The growing support for open data doesn’t stop there. More cities and countries are putting forward initiatives designed to adopt the open-data concept as public policy. With the support of the public, government officials can draft regulations that dictate how open data is managed responsibly. Even details such as how insights can be utilized are made open.

Open data eliminates the need for intrusive tracking and data collection. Methods such as web scraping and intensive data collection are known to be intrusive and less reliable. They also present serious privacy issues. Private entities collecting data are not always responsible with the data they gather.

There are steps you can take to maintain privacy whenever you are online. Utilizing a proxy server or a VPN connection to maintain anonymity is a start. Since servers cannot track you by your IP address, you can safely browse multiple sites without being recorded. You can also limit the information you share online to remain anonymous.

Making sure that you understand the privacy policy of web service providers is another thing you can do to maintain privacy. Knowing how your data is handled gives you the ability to decide whether you want to willingly give away your personal details. Regulations such as GDPR give you more options, including the right to be forgotten should you want to.

Nevertheless, these tracking and data collection methods are only becoming more intrusive. While the previous steps can help protect your personal information from basic tracking methods, the more advanced ones are specifically designed to still track you across multiple websites whenever possible. Open data eliminates the need for these intrusive tracking methods.

A Positive Impact on the Future

Cities and countries that have adopted open data are reporting a decrease in data breaches and privacy law violations. Multiple studies have shown that making open data available to those who need insights brings a lot of positive changes to the market and data ecosystem. More importantly, open data protects you as the user.

Democratization is an important component of this process. You, as the owner of your own data, have the right to know how data is collected and processed. You also have access to the insights generated from your user data and online activities. Since there are no intrusive methods used in the collection process, you can also opt-out of the process entirely.

If you are for open data, you can influence the process by getting in touch with your local elected officials and sounding your support. Officials are already considering the concept of open data as it is, and your support will speed up the adoption process further. In fact, country-wide open data implementation could be just a few months away.

One last thing to note about open data is its openness. Open data is basically big data made public, but big data isn’t always open data. Insights gathered through the open data initiative can be used for public purposes, including for fighting crime, improving public services, and bringing more benefits to you as the user.

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