WASHINGTON—Good quality data is increasingly essential to improving outcomes in health care, education, and countless other facets of the economy and society. But those outcomes depend on making data accessible to others, and as privacy advocates fuel fears and mistrust about data sharing, data is increasingly siloed in America, which is hindering the country’s social and economic progress, according to a new report from the Center for Data Innovation.
Alongside data silos and rising anti-tech sentiment, restrictive data privacy laws and a lack of technical standards hinder data sharing in the United States. The Center recommends policy measures to overcome the legal, social, technical, and economic barriers to data sharing faced by the public and private sectors in the United States.
“Effective data-sharing needs to be the norm in the United States,” said Gillian Diebold, a former policy analyst with the Center for Data Innovation, who authored the report. “The obstacles to data sharing preclude information from being used productively and can greatly inhibit the burgeoning AI economy. It will take coordinated government action to both enable data sharing by default and counter these obstacles.”
In the report, the Center breaks down the current federal laws restricting data sharing as well as the barriers that stem from legislative proposals such as the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA). The report then explores the social barriers, such as growing mistrust of data collection and anti-tech sentiments; technical barriers, primarily the lack of universal standards for data formatting; and economic barriers, such as the collective action problem of actors under-using or under-contributing data due to poor incentives to share.
The report recommends that U.S. policymakers take six steps to overcome the legal, social, technical, and economic barriers to data sharing:
- Reform existing data protection laws to reduce legal barriers to data sharing.
- Direct key federal agencies to create model data-sharing contracts to simplify legal agreements.
- Create data literacy initiatives to help communities understand the benefits of data and how data can be shared securely.
- Enable consumers to easily donate their data, particularly in high-impact areas such as health care and education.
- Develop data standards in high-impact areas.
- Identify and address instances where fragmented ownership of data prevents compiling valuable datasets.
“Without definitive action to amend privacy laws, overcome social opposition, and address economic and technical barriers to foster data sharing across government and industry, the United States will remain far behind its potential in using data for social and economic benefit, and many initiatives to use data for productive purposes will fall short,” said Diebold.