Big Data a Threat to Open Democracy



The Real Privacy Problem
MIT Technology Review


The author writes about the incipient dangers for democracy of governments increasingly relying on ‘big data' to formulate policy and service delivery.

He states that far from the promise of better and more accessible information to allow citizens to make better decisions as a result of the spread of digital technology, big data is being collected and manipulated by technocrats to formulate policy in unseen and often unaccountable ways.

The author points to arguments used by governments that data mining and big data collection will result in more efficient policy mechanisms and decisions. This is because they are formulated on the basis of accurate, real-time information rather than the uncertainties and inefficiencies of political debate, it is claimed.

However, the author argues big data-driven policy bars citizens from understanding the context or rationale for policy change.

'We would perceive a murkier picture of what makes our social institutions work; despite the promise of greater personalization and empowerment, the interactive systems would provide only an illusion of more participation,' he argues.

The author argues in summary that democracies have reached a tipping point by attempting to solve public problems without having to explain or justify themselves to citizens.

He argues that using digital technology to create public policy should focus not just on efficiency, but also create platforms that aim to enhance the imperfection, improvisation and inefficiency inherent in open and transparent public debate about policy directions that 21st century society should take.


Thumbnail image: Lena/Flickr

Evgeny Morozov
Published Date
October 22, 2013