Imagine a cell phone database that includes terms of service, prices, fees, rates, different calling plans, quality of services, coverage maps etc. – “smart disclosure,” as the term is being used in federal government circles, means how to make data available such that it can be used and analyzed. Part of smart disclosure would mean collecting information from consumers as well, such as user experiences, bills, service complaints. This is the vision of the FCC’s chief of their Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Joel Gurin at the Open Gov R&D Summit organized by the Whitehouse. He notes that right away you run into issues of privacy and proprietary data that still need to be worked out.
He gives two examples of when it has worked: healthcare.gov – gov has collected and presented data but become the intermediary in presenting this data [I took a brief look at this site and don’t see where to download data]. Another example is brightscope: they analyzed government released pension and 401(k) fees to create a ranking product they sell to hr managers so that folks can understand the appropriateness of the fees they pay.
The potential is enormous: imagine openness in FCC data. Gurin asks, how do we let many brightscopes bloom?
Christopher Meyer, vice president for external affairs and information services for the Consumers Union, gives an example of failure through database mismanagement. There was a spike in their dataset of consumer complaints about acceleration problems in Toyota cars. They didn’t look at the data and didn’t notice this before Toyota issued the official recall. They’d like to do better, and have better organization in their data and better tools for issue detection through consumer complaints, with a mechanism to permit the manufacturer to respond early.