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Can Data Make Government More Open? Americans Mixed, Poll Says

Americans are mixed on whether or not "open data" initiatives will make government officials more accountable to the public, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. Right now, everything from crime statistics to campaign contributions to public health information is available on government sites like Data.Gov. Most Americans have used the Internet to find information pertaining to the government, but it tends to be for simple things like local park hours or instructions on how to renew a driver's license. Less than a quarter of the people polled had used public data to keep tabs on how the government is performing, according to the report. That could be connected with the fact that only 5 percent of Americans think the federal government does a good job of sharing the data it collects.

Open Data
Pew Research Center

Can that data actually make a difference? A slight majority (53 percent) said that open data could make government officials more accountable to the public. Overall, Democrats (58 percent) were more likely than Republicans (50 percent) to believe open data could impact the government. Only 9 percent of Americans thought government data was useful to the private sector, even though 84 percent of those with smartphones had used weather apps, which rely mostly on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Study: Americans Say They’ve Lost Control of Personal Data 0:23

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— Keith Wagstaff