Transparency – what’s the end?

In an October 9th article in the New Republic, Lawrence Lessig authored an important critique of the transparency movement. Primarily asking the questions – transparency is all fine and good, but what is the end?

Lessig’s article and a related article by Jill Lepore in The New Yorker point out that the rush to transparency may lead to unintended consequence that we do not want or jeopardizes the good that could have been achieved by openness..

Neither of these articles nor this post on O’Reilly Radar, which highlights Lessig’s and Lepore’s articles, condemn open government data/transparency, rather they point to the need for goals and to ask the important question of “what is the end?” I support transparency fully and think government does need to open up more information. But we do need to think about what will be the benefits and the costs. I encourage you to read these articles because they cover the importance of thoughtful execution.

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Scott Burns

Thanks for the great links and suggestion. When there’s a lot of hype about something– even something as important on its surface as transparency– it’s good to remember to step back and think about if and why it matters.