As part of an ongoing effort to build a knowledge base for the field of opening governance by organizing and disseminating its learnings, the GovLab Selected Readings series provides an annotated and curated collection of recommended works on key opening governance topics. In this edition, we explore the literature on Smart Disclosure. To suggest additional readings on this or any other topic, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
While much attention is paid to open data, data transparency need not be managed by a simple On/Off switch: It’s often desirable to make specific data available to the public or individuals in targeted ways. A prime example is the use of government data in Smart Disclosure, which provides consumers with data they need to make difficult marketplace choices in health care, financial services, and other important areas. Governments collect two kinds of data that can be used for Smart Disclosure: First, governments collect information on services of high interest to consumers, and are increasingly releasing this kind of data to the public. In the United States, for example, the Department of Health and Human Services collects and releases online data on health insurance options, while the Department of Education helps consumers understand the true cost (after financial aid) of different colleges. Second, state, local, or national governments hold information on consumers themselves that can be useful to them. In the U.S., for example, the Blue Button program was launched to help veterans easily access their own medical records.
Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)
- Mark L. Braunstein — Empowering the Patient — a book exploring how computing and patients’ access to information can improve healthcare.
- Elisa Brodi — “Product-Attribute Information” and “Product-Use Information”: Smart Disclosure and New Policy Implications for Consumers’ Protection — a paper exploring smart disclosure in Italy, with a particular focus on compelling private companies to release useful information to the public.
- Markle Connecting for Health Work Group on Consumer Engagement — Policies in Practice: The Download Capability — a set of guidelines and strategies for releasing health information to the public from the originators of the Blue Button initiative.
- National Science and Technology Council — Smart Disclosure and Consumer Decision Making: Report of the Task Force on Smart Disclosure — a comprehensive, inter-agency report on the use of smart disclosure in the United States Federal Government.
- Djoko Sigit Sayogo and Theresa A. Pardo — Understanding Smart Data Disclosure Policy Success: The Case of Green Button — a paper exploring the implementation and impact of the Green Button initiative.
- Richard H. Thaler and Will Tucker — Smarter Information, Smarter Consumers — an article describing many aspects of targeted information release for consumers, with a particular focus on challenges to success.
- United Kingdom: Department for Business Innovation & Skills — Better Choices: Better Deals Report on Progress in the Consumer Empowerment Strategy — a report detailing the United Kingdom’s consumer empowerment strategy.
Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)
Better Choices: Better Deals Report on Progress in the Consumer Empowerment Strategy. Progress Report. Consumer Empowerment Strategy. United Kingdom: Department for Business Innovation & Skills, December 2012. http://bit.ly/17MqnL3.
- The report details the progress made through the United Kingdom’s consumer empowerment strategy, Better Choices: Better Deals. The plan seeks to mitigate knowledge imbalances through information disclosure programs and targeted nudges.
- The empowerment strategy’s four sections demonstrate the potential benefits of Smart Disclosure: 1. The power of information; 2. The power of the crowd; 3. Helping the vulnerable; and 4. A new approach to Government working with business.
Braunstein, Mark L.,. “Empowering the Patient.” In Health Informatics in the Cloud, 67–79. Springer Briefs in Computer Science. Springer New York Heidelberg Dordrecht London, 2013. http://bit.ly/HhMFys.
- This book discusses the application of computing to healthcare delivery, public health and community based clinical research.
- Braunstein asks and seeks to answer critical questions such as: Who should make the case for smart disclosure when the needs of consumers are not being met? What role do non-profits play in the conversation on smart disclosure especially when existing systems (or lack thereof) of information provision do not work or are unsafe?
Brodi, Elisa. “Product-Attribute Information” and “Product-Use Information”: Smart Disclosure and New Policy Implications for Consumers’ Protection. SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, September 4, 2012. http://bit.ly/17hssEK.
- This paper from the Research Area of the Bank of Italy’s Law and Economics Department “surveys the literature on product use information and analyzes whether and to what extent Italian regulator is trying to ensure consumers’ awareness as to their use pattern.” Rather than focusing on the type of information governments can release to citizens, Brodi proposes that governments require private companies to provide valuable use pattern information to citizens to inform decision-making.
- The form of regulation proposed by Brodi and other proponents “is based on a basic concept: consumers can be protected if companies are forced to disclose data on the customers’ consumption history through electronic files.”
National Science and Technology Council. Smart Disclosure and Consumer Decision Making: Report of the Task Force on Smart Disclosure. Task Force on Smart Disclosure: Information and Efficiency in Consumer Markets. Washington, DC: United States Government: Executive Office of the President, May 30, 2013. http://1.usa.gov/1aamyoT.
- This inter-agency report is a comprehensive description of smart disclosure approaches being used across the Federal Government. The report not only highlights the importance of making data available to consumers but also to innovators to build better options for consumers.
- In addition to providing context about government policies that guide smart disclosure initiatives, the report raises questions about what parties have influence in this space.
“Policies in Practice: The Download Capability.” Markle Connecting for Health Work Group on Consumer Engagement, August 2010. http://bit.ly/HhMJyc.
- This report from the Markle Connecting for Health Work Group on Consumer Engagement — the creator of the Blue Button system for downloading personal health records — features a “set of privacy and security practices to help people download their electronic health records.”
- To help make health information easily accessible for all citizens, the report lists a number of important steps:
- Make the download capability a common practice
- Implement sound policies and practices to protect individuals and their information
- Collaborate on sample data sets
- Support the download capability as part of Meaningful Use and qualified or certified health IT
- Include the download capability in procurement requirements.
- The report also describes the rationale for the development of the Blue Button — perhaps the best known example of Smart Disclosure currently in existence — and the targeted release of health information in general:
- Individual access to information is rooted in fair information principles and law
- Patients need and want the information
- The download capability would encourage innovation
- A download capability frees data sources from having to make many decisions about the user interface
- A download capability would hasten the path to standards and interoperability.
Sayogo, Djoko Sigit, and Theresa A. Pardo. “Understanding Smart Data Disclosure Policy Success: The Case of Green Button.” In Proceedings of the 14th Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research, 72–81. New York: ACM New York, NY, USA, 2013. http://bit.ly/1aanf1A.
- This paper from the Proceedings of the 14th Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research explores the implementation of the Green Button Initiative, analyzing qualitative data from interviews with experts involved in Green Button development and implementation.
- Moving beyond the specifics of the Green Button initiative, the authors raise questions on the motivations and success factors facilitating successful collaboration between public and private organizations to support smart disclosure policy.
Thaler, Richard H., and Will Tucker. “Smarter Information, Smarter Consumers.” Harvard Business Review January – February 2013. The Big Idea. http://bit.ly/18gimxw.
- In this article, Thaler and Tucker make three key observations regarding the challenges related to smart disclosure:
- “We are constantly confronted with information that is highly important but extremely hard to navigate or understand.”
- “Repeated attempts to improve disclosure, including efforts to translate complex contracts into “plain English,” have met with only modest success.”
- “There is a fundamental difficulty of explaining anything complex in simple terms. Most people find it difficult to write instructions explaining how to tie a pair of shoelaces.
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