How to Encourage Open Data Sharing While Ensuring Data Security

There’s not much more satisfying than seeing a tool that you’ve built used in an innovative way. The following is a great map created on data.FracTracker.org by Matt Kelso:

The map shows two different datasets (cancer mortality rates by county and oil and gas well locations). I really like the subtlety of how Matthew decided to display the well locations under the cancer rates data with some transparency on the upper layer. You can click on the Legend and the Info tabs to tuck them out of the way to view the whole map, which quite nicely shows off the effect Matthew was probably going for.

Other than just being a neat visualization, this map also exposes a subtle, but very cool feature of our Rhiza Insight software that powers the FracTracker site. You’ll notice that the dataset labeled “Oil and Gas Locations of Pennsylvania” is a protected dataset, which means that it contains information that is meant to be private. In this case, a person who is authorized to have access to the dataset (Matthew) decided to create a map using it and publish it publicly. Doing this allows users who are not authorized to see the detailed data to still see a map of the data. No confidential data is exposed, but there’s still a way to share just the basic concept of the data.

Rhiza Insight offers lots of options for users to protect private data, while allowing it to be published in “safe” ways determined by the owner of the data. This type of nuanced security for data is essential if you want to encourage more openness associated with data sharing. Most of the data tools used for data sharing offer an all or nothing approach: either you share everything (ie: data.gov) or you force all data behind a password wall. We at Rhiza have learned by listening to our clients that what is needed is the much more nuanced approach we have incorporated that into the tools we build.

If you’d like to hear more about how Rhiza Labs helps its customers to simultaneously share and protect their data, please feel free to contact us.