Data Scrubbing Fears

Some librarians, civic groups, historians, and others have begun downloading federal websites for safekeeping, just in case the data on these sites disappears (The Seattle Times, March 12, 2017.)

They are alarmed by certain actions of the Trump administration regarding federal data. They include: removal of animal cruelty data from the website of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; suspension of a regulation protecting whistle blowers at the Department of Energy; more difficulty in accessing the log of visitors to the White House.

Do their fears echo George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty Four, in which all information is controlled by a Soviet style government?

Alex Howard is an official of the Sunlight Foundation, which tracks transparency in government. He was quoted in the article as saying that downloading by private citizens is done “because of the antipathy this president has shown toward government statistics and scientific knowledge.”

Government watchers are awaiting Trump’s appointment to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. This little-known agency guides federal policy on various aspects of information policy.

Data watchers wonder if this appointment will change or limit our access to government findings and information.

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