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Unexpected Reveals in the Age of Radical Transparency

December 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Linkedin Company Insights

Government reform activists are constantly working to shed light on the dark dealings in politics, particularly on government employees and officials moving to the private sector to lobby the agencies and offices they used to occupy.  In the past, this information was difficult to obtain.

Enter Linkedin.

Like all social networking platforms, the strength of Linkedin is in its ability to mine profile data with algorithms to create connections and paint a picture unseen from other vantage points.  Also like other social networking platforms, they’ve been steadily adding features and doing more with the growing body of data they hold.

Even with a free Linkedin account and a few minutes of research, one can look up the top ten lobbying firms in the US for 2012 and get a glimpse of insight about the comings and goings of employees from and to the public sector by looking at these organizations “Company Insight” pages on Linkedin:

  1. Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber & Schreck (4 employees from the US House of Representatives)
  2. Hogan & Hartson (4 employees from the US Securities and Exchange Commission, 3 from the US House of Representatives)
  3. Quinn Gillespie & Associates (one employee recently departed for a job as a Press Associate for the Senate Finance Committee)
  4. Holland & Knight (9 employees from the US House of Representatives)
  5. Ernst & Young
  6. Williams & Jensen (one employee recently departed for a job with the US Department of Energy)
  7. Van Scoyoc Associates (3 employees from the US Senate)
  8. Cassidy & Associates (4 employees from the US Air Force)
  9. Akin, Gump, Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP (10 employees from the US Senate, 9 from the US House of Representatives)
  10. Patton Boggs LLP (9 employees from the US Department of Justice, 6 from the US House of Representatives)

 

Someone with more programming expertise than I could easily create an automated program to mine and archive this publicly-available data (and mash it up with other bodies of data).

Something important to consider about all of this information is that it came from the users themselves; not from the companies.  As always with data security, even the most robust program is only as strong as its weakest link.

There is very little that is certain about our rapidly-evolving world, but one certainty is that more data will become public and we’ll have more and better ways to understand and sift through it.

Any institutions that rely on a lack of transparency are going to be in for unexpected surprises if they don’t fundamentally change their practices, or invest in some heavy-duty online reputation management.

Fair warning.

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