In November, we posted about the IRS's digital release of 10 years' worth of tax-exempt organization returns, which contained more than 6.5 million documents.
ProPublica, a news organization that "produces investigative journalism in the public interest," has now launched an easy-to-use search engine for these returns. You can search by keyword, state, non-profit category, and organization type (e.g., 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4))
For example, if you're interested in the current IRS controversy, searching on "Tea Party", "constitution", or "patriot" will pull up information on numerious 501(c)(4) orgainizations and links to pdf scans of their Form 990 returns.
The library hosted its 125th anniversary symposium, Big Data and Big Challenges for Law and Legal Information, this past Wednesday. We were delighted to welcome dozens of participants from law schools, libraries, news organizations, government agencies, and law firms to discuss data-driven initiatives in many disciplines at the Law Center. Thanks to all who presented, attended, and tuned in online – we hope you enjoyed the day as much as we did!
Also, if you have feedback or ideas to share about the symposium and the topics it addressed, we’d love to hear from you. Please take a brief survey to share with Georgetown Law Library your thoughts on moving forward in our ever-growing world of big data.
He will be delivering the lunchtime keynote address Leveraging Georgetown University’s Strengths to Create Opportunities in Big Data.
Dr. Dimolitsas’ expertise in large-scale science and technology, high-tech/high-risk project management and technology commercialization has formed the basis for advice that has been provided on innovation and on complex-systems risk management to the U.S. Government and others. He also represents Georgetown University in a variety of fora on climate issues, including the World Economic Forum’s Global University Leadership Forum on Sustainability.
Dr. Dimolitsas has authored 60 papers and holds multiple patents. He holds a B.S. in Theoretical Physics, an M.S. in Nuclear Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering.
One of our panelists, Professor Paul Ohm, with academic credentials both in computer science and in law, will provide a fascinating introduction to his interdisciplinary approach to internet privacy issues. Companies soon will be able to collect personal information about us, but without ever receiving that information directly from us. Can and should privacy law respond to this challenge?
Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center, is among numerous panelists from academia, government service, and private practice set to speak at the conference. Professor Arroyo will present on how the Georgetown Law-based organization is using data and data platforms to strategically position itself as a “go to” resource for policy makers, consumers, and reporters on climate, energy, and transportation issues.
Professor Arroyo recently gained national attention with a high-profile TED Talk (watch below) on preparing for climate change in June 2012, which continues to draw views and spread ideas online. She teaches experiential environmental law courses to both law and public policy students at Georgetown, and has previously served as a vice president at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and in positions with several federal and state government organizations dealing with the research, policy, and economics of environmental issues.
One of our panelists, Professor Joshua Teitelbaum, will provide a fascinating introduction to risk preferences, and how data sets can illuminate why people choose certain insurance policies or 401(k) investment strategies over others.
Privacy and data is now entwined in the national discussion about gun control. Many people have seen the interactive map posted on website of the Journal News identifying the names and addresses of all gun owners in New York's Westchester and Rockland counties. In light of the mass murder in Newtown, Connecticut, the newspaper created the map using names of addresses listed in the New York public records. Designed to inform readers about the prevalence of gun ownership in their neighborhood, the newspaper's maps have disturbed gun owners who feel the website violated their privacy rights and leaves them vulnerable to attack.
Jeff Sonderman of the website Poynter.org recently wrote an article to further the discussion of journalistic ethics when working with big datasets. Titled Programmers Explain How to Turn Data into Journalism & Why that Matters, Sonderman's piece ends with a list of considerations people should contemplate before posting personal data. Below is a very simplified summary of his factors.
Do you have a reason for publishing the data, or are you doing it "because we can"?
Have you considered reasons why not to publish it?:
Who could be harmed
Is the data accurate
Is it relevant to the story
Are you presenting the data in a way that maximizes the benefit and minimizes the harm?
The library invites you to participate in the discussion about big data by watching the symposium live online on Wednesday, January 30.
One of our panelists, Professor Josh Blackman, will provide a fascinating introduction to assisted decisionmaking and "how viewing the law as data can facilitate the analysis of how courts work and how courts decide cases. With this foundation, he will explore how attorneys can use this technology to improve the representation of their clients and how non-lawyers can obtain easier access to justice."
During the law library's Jan. 30 conference on Big Data, Professor Kathy Zeiler of the Georgetown law faculty will be presenting on issues connected to the use of big data. One of her topics has been in the news this month.
A recent Johns Hopkins study used government data sets to evaluate the number of medical malpractice claims that have resulted from egregious surgical negligence. This work could only have been done because of a controversial collection of nearly 10,000 malpractice claims housed in the National Practitioners Data Bank (NPBD).
Created by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, the NPDB is a confidential system that compiles malpractice payouts, hospital discipline and regulatory sanctions against doctors and other health professionals. Prof. Zeiler will discuss why the government temporarily restricted public access to the NPBD in order to protect the privacy interest of the malpractice defendants.
This is just one way in which the library's conference will examine the legal and information-policy factors which society should consider when using data to further the public good.