[MyData & Open Data] Fwd: FYI - Request for Proposals: Exploring the Implications of Government Release of Large Datasets

Laura James laura.james at okfn.org
Wed Jul 30 14:51:42 UTC 2014

The below RFP may be of interest to some...

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Stefaan Verhulst <sv39 at nyu.edu>
Date: 29 July 2014 16:22
Subject: FYI - Request for Proposals: Exploring the Implications of
Government Release of Large Datasets
To: Opening Governance <opening-governance at googlegroups.com>, "
common-assessment-methods-for-open-data at googlegroups.com" <
common-assessment-methods-for-open-data at googlegroups.com>

Request for Proposals: Exploring the Implications of Government Release of
Large Datasets




The Berkeley Center for Law & Technology and Microsoft are issuing this
request for proposals (RFP) to fund scholarly inquiry to examine the civil
rights, human rights, security and privacy issues that arise from recent
initiatives to release large datasets of government information to the
public for analysis and reuse.  This research may help ground public policy
discussions and drive the development of a framework to avoid potential
abuses of this data while encouraging greater engagement and innovation.

This RFP seeks to:

   - Gain knowledge of the impact of the online release of large amounts of
   data generated by citizens' interactions with government
   - Imagine new possibilities for technical, legal, and regulatory
   interventions that avoid abuse
   - Begin building a body of research that addresses these issues


Governments at all levels are releasing large datasets for analysis by
anyone for any purpose—“Open Data.”  Using Open Data, entrepreneurs may
create new products and services, and citizens may use it to gain insight
into the government.  A plethora of time saving and other useful
applications have emerged from Open Data feeds, including more accurate
traffic information, real-time arrival of public transportation, and
information about crimes in neighborhoods.  Sometimes governments release
large datasets in order to encourage the development of unimagined new
applications.  For instance, New York City has made over 1,100 databases
available <http://nycopendata.socrata.com/>, some of which contain
information that can be linked to individuals, such as a parking violation
containing license plate numbers and car descriptions.

Data held by the government is often implicitly or explicitly about
individuals—acting in roles that have recognized constitutional protection,
such as lobbyist, signatory to a petition, or donor to a political cause;
in roles that require special protection, such as victim of, witness to, or
suspect in a crime; in the role as businessperson submitting proprietary
information to a regulator or obtaining a business license; and in the role
of ordinary citizen.  While open government is often presented as an
unqualified good, sometimes Open Data can identify individuals or groups,
leading to a more transparent citizenry.  The citizen who foresees this
growing transparency may be less willing to engage in government, as these
transactions may be documented and released in a dataset to anyone to use
for any imaginable purpose—including to deanonymize the database—forever.
Moreover, some groups of citizens may have few options or no choice as to
whether to engage in governmental activities.  Hence, open data sets may
have a disparate impact on certain groups. The potential impact of
large-scale data and analysis on civil rights is an area of growing
concern.  A number of civil rights and media justice groups banded together
in February 2014 to endorse the “Civil Rights Principles for the Era of Big
and the potential of new data systems to undermine longstanding civil
rights protections was flagged as a "central finding" of a recent policy
review <http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/technology/big-data-review> by
White House adviser John Podesta.

The Berkeley Center for Law & Technology (BCLT) and Microsoft are issuing
this request for proposals in an effort to better understand the
implications and potential impact of the release of data related to U.S.
citizens’ interactions with their local, state and federal governments.
BCLT and Microsoft will fund up to six grants, with a combined total of
$300,000.  Grantees will be required to participate in a workshop to
present and discuss their research at the Berkeley Technology Law Journal
<http://btlj.org> (BTLJ) Spring Symposium.  All grantees’ papers will be
published in a dedicated monograph.  Grantees’ papers that approach the
issues from a legal perspective may also be published in the BTLJ. We may
also hold a followup workshop in New York City or Washington, DC.

While we are primarily interested in funding proposals that address issues
related to the policy impacts of Open Data, many of these issues are
intertwined with general societal implications of “big data.” As a result,
proposals that explore Open Data from a big data perspective are welcome;
however, proposals solely focused on big data are not.  We are open to
proposals that address the following difficult question.  We are also open
to methods and disciplines, and are particularly interested in proposals
from cross-disciplinary teams.

   - To what extent does existing Open Data made available by city and
   state governments affect individual profiling?  Do the effects change
   depending on the level of aggregation (neighborhood vs. cities)?  What
   releases of information could foreseeably cause discrimination in the
   future? Will different groups in society be disproportionately impacted by
   Open Data?
   - Should the use of Open Data be governed by a code of conduct or
   subject to a review process before being released? In order to enhance
   citizen privacy, should governments develop guidelines to release sampled
   or perturbed data, instead of entire datasets? When datasets contain
   potentially identifiable information, should there be a notice-and-comment
   proceeding that includes proposed technological solutions to anonymize,
   de-identify or otherwise perturb the data?
   - Is there something fundamentally different about government services
   and the government’s collection of citizen’s data for basic needs in modern
   society such as power and water that requires governments to exercise
   greater due care than commercial entities?
   - Companies have legal and practical mechanisms to shield data submitted
   to government from public release.  What mechanisms do individuals have or
   should have to address misuse of Open Data?  Could developments in the
   constitutional right to information policy as articulated in *Whalen*
   and *Westinghouse Electric Co* address Open Data privacy issues?
   - Collecting data costs money, and its release could affect civil
   liberties.  Yet it is being given away freely, sometimes to immensely
   profitable firms.  Should governments license data for a fee and/or impose
   limits on its use, given its value?
   - The privacy principle of “collection limitation” is under siege, with
   many arguing that use restrictions will be more efficacious for protecting
   privacy and more workable for big data analysis.  Does the potential of
   Open Data justify eroding state and federal privacy act collection
   limitation principles?   What are the ethical dimensions of a government
   system that deprives the data subject of the ability to obscure or prevent
   the collection of data about a sensitive issue?  A move from collection
   restrictions to use regulation raises a number of related issues, detailed
   - Are use restrictions efficacious in creating accountability?  Consumer
   reporting agencies are regulated by use restrictions, yet they are not
   known for their accountability.  How could use regulations be implemented
   in the context of Open Data efficaciously?  Can a self-learning algorithm
   honor data use restrictions?
   - If an Open Dataset were regulated by a use restriction, how could
   individuals police wrongful uses?   How would plaintiffs overcome the
   likely defenses or proof of facts in a use regulation system, such as a
   burden to prove that data were analyzed and the product of that analysis
   was used in a certain way to harm the plaintiff?  Will plaintiffs ever be
   able to beat first amendment defenses?
   - The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology big data
   report emphasizes that analysis is not a “use” of data.  Such an
   interpretation suggests that NSA metadata analysis and large-scale scanning
   of communications do not raise privacy issues.  What are the ethical and
   legal implications of the “analysis is not use” argument in the context of
   Open Data?
   - Open Data celebrates the idea that information collected by the
   government can be used by another person for various kinds of analysis.
   When analysts are not involved in the collection of data, they are less
   likely to understand its context and limitations.  How do we ensure that
   this knowledge is maintained in a use regulation system?
   - Former President William Clinton was admitted under a pseudonym for a
   procedure at a New York Hospital in 2004.  The hospital detected 1,500
   attempts by its own employees to access the President’s records.  With
   snooping such a tempting activity, how could incentives be crafted to cause
   self-policing of government data and the self-disclosure of inappropriate
   uses of Open Data?
   - It is clear that data privacy regulation could hamper some big data
   efforts.  However, many examples of big data successes hail from highly
   regulated environments, such as health care and financial services—areas
   with statutory, common law, and IRB protections.  What are the contours of
   privacy law that are compatible with big data and Open Data success and
   which are inherently inimical to it?
   - In recent years, the problem of “too much money in politics” has been
   addressed with increasing disclosure requirements.  Yet, distrust in
   government remains high, and individuals identified in donor databases have
   been subjected to harassment.  Is the answer to problems of distrust in
   government even more Open Data?
   - What are the ethical and epistemological implications of encouraging
   government decision-making based upon correlation analysis, without a
   rigorous understanding of cause and effect?  Are there decisions that
   should not be left to just correlational proof? While enthusiasm for data
   science has increased, scientific journals are elevating their standards,
   with special scrutiny focused on hypothesis-free, multiple comparison
   analysis. What could legal and policy experts learn from experts in
   statistics about the nature and limits of open data?


All proposals received by the submission deadline and in compliance with
the eligibility criteria will be peer-reviewed by a panel of subject-matter
experts listed below. Experts may submit their own proposals, but are
prohibited from reviewing or submitting feedback on any proposals they

BCLT will select the most worthy proposals for funding.  Although BCLT will
use the feedback from the panel of subject-matter experts, all funding
decisions are solely within BCLT’s discretion.  No individual feedback will
be provided on proposals that are not funded.

All proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

   - *Addresses an important research question* that, if answered, has the
   potential to have a significant impact on the public’s understanding the
   implications of open government
   - *Where possible, an interdisciplinary approach*, including technical
   works that incorporate legal analysis
   - *Potential for wide dissemination* and use of knowledge, including
   specific plans for scholarly publications, public presentations, and white
   - *Ability to complete the project* including adequacy of resources
   available, reasonableness of timelines, and qualifications of identified
   - *Qualifications of principle investigator* including previous history
   of work in the area, successful completion of previously-funded projects,
   research or teaching awards, and books published


   - Proposal submission deadline:  September 25, 2014
   - Notification of results (25% of award):  October 30, 2014
   - Draft paper submission (50% of award): May 1, 2015
   - Workshop: May 2015 [TBA]
   - Final paper submission (25% of award): June 1, 2015

 Note: Dates are subject to changes.


*Project proposal:* The proposal contains full details of the proposed
project in a maximum of 10 pages. The project proposal will be made
available for peer review by BCLT, Microsoft and experts and scholars in
the field. The project proposal should include:

   - *Project description: *What set of questions will be addressed? How
   will they be addressed? How will answering these questions help advance
   what is known about civic tech?
   - *Approach: *What is the methodological and theoretical approach that
   the researchers will address? Exactly how will the researchers go about
   answering the question?
   - *Related research: *Briefly summarize related research, including
   references where appropriate.
   - *Researchers’ roles: *Describe the role of individual researchers on
   the project and how their skills and knowledge enable them to address the
   question proposed.
   - *Schedule:* What milestones will be used to measure progress of the
   project during the year and when will they be completed? If the project
   described is part of a larger ongoing research program, estimate the time
   for completion of this project only.
   - *Use of funds:* Provide a budget (in U.S. dollars) describing how the
   award will be used. The budget should be presented as a table with the
   total budget request clearly indicated. The budget may include honorariums.
   - *Other support: *Include other contributions to this project (cash,
   goods, and services), if any, but do not include the use of university
   facilities that are otherwise provided on an ongoing basis. Note: Authors
   of winning proposals will be required to submit an original letter on
   department letterhead certifying the commitment of any additional or
   matching support described in the proposal.


To be eligible for this RFP, your institute and proposal must meet the
following requirements :

   - Institutions must have access to the knowledge, resources, and skills
   necessary to carry out the proposed research.
   - Institutions must be either an accredited degree-granting university
   with a non-profit status or a research institution with non-profit status.
   - Proposals that are incomplete or request funds in excess of the
   maximum award will be excluded from the selection process.
   - The receiving institution must agree that awards are made as
   unrestricted gifts, will not be subject to indirect costs or overhead
   charges , and these may not be included in the budget for the proposed

Additionally, BCLT assumes that the final papers submitted are available
for publication and dissemination.  It is the responsibility of the
authors, not BCLT, to determine whether publication of the papers requires
the prior consent of other parties and, if so, to obtain it.



 To submit a proposal, visit the Conference Management Toolkit (CMT) here

Once you have created a profile, the site will allow you to submit your

If you have questions, please contact Chris Hoofnagle
<choofnagle at law.berkeley.edu?Subject=Open%20Data%20RFP>, principal
investigator on this project

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