Open data is a nebulous concept. What does it actually mean? Openness is generally considered to be a good thing. And we all know data is valuable. So open data must be double plus good, right?
We tend to get confused about what’s “open” and what’s not (hardly surprising when few of us read the terms and conditions on anything). As Tim Berners-Lee pointed out at the fifth ODI Summit yesterday, most of us don’t realise we shouldn’t be using Google Maps on event invitations, because that data is copyright Google (he recommends we use OpenStreetMap instead).
At the same time as being trigger-happy with other people’s copyrighted data, we’re even more foolhardy with our own. What we really don’t want is what Sir Tim calls “promiscuous data” – that’s personal data which goes off in all sorts of directions we don’t want it to.
The Open Data Institute believes that open data is the glue society needs. It is campaigning to establish data as “an infrastructure not a commodity”. If we all share data and collaborate, we’ll save ourselves billions of pounds annually. But if we’re individually confused about what we should and shouldn’t share, the companies and organisations currently managing our data for us are even more conflicted.