Dissertation Defense - Meg Young
You are cordially invited to join us for the Dissertation Defense of Meg Young, to be held on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, via Zoom from 10 a.m. to noon PDT.
Title: Access, Accountability, and Ownership in Government Use of Proprietary Systems
When firms contract with public agencies to provide services, contractors themselves may stake a claim over how information they produce is managed and shared. Indeed, firms regularly assert that some subset of their work with governments is proprietary and confidential. At the same time, government agencies are also subject to transparency requirements. Within the State of Washington, agencies are subject to a strongly transparent Public Records Act, a state freedom of information law, under which members of the public are granted access to a large share of government information by request. Public agencies themselves may also seek access to firms' data to advance accountability, equity, and oversight objectives. In both respects, data access can be constrained in practice when firms assert it to be trade secret. In this dissertation, I analyze cross-sector data sharing as a site of contestation over data access and control with a focus on the technical, legal, policy, and contractual factors that enabled and constrained it. Specifically, my case studies report on data sharing between the public and private sectors in two contracting relationships: (i) the contract between the transportation agencies behind One Regional Card for All (ORCA) fare card in the Puget Sound region and their vendor Vix Inc., and (ii) the would-be contract between King County Metro and Lyft Inc in support of a subsidized expansion of transit hub access. I draw on ethnographic methods to collect data through interviews; my first-hand experience as a research assistant on a project to support cross-sector data sharing, the Transportation Data Collaborative; and documents, including those I requested via the Washington Public Records Act. In both cases, I draw on a political economic lens to examine ownership claims over data by public sector and private sector actors as they relate to the ability to access data. I locate my analysis of these contested claims within a broader scholarship of ambiguity and political struggle in the passage point between "public" and "private." Building on theory that always understands these terms to be asserting normative (rather than descriptive) claims about the world, I explore how data ownership emerged as a dominant rationale in assertions about how data should be made available or controlled. I observe that while claiming data ownership is locally understood to be a means of asserting control over data, in practice it is not dispositive of outcomes with respect to how it is accessed and shared. This finding has implications for recent policy proposals in favor of data ownership as a means of advancing digital rights and raises questions about the effectiveness of that approach.
Meeting ID: 982 8000 7699
Supervisory Committee members:
- Megan Finn, Chair
- Nic Weber
- Ryan Calo
- Jan Whittington
- Margaret O'Mara, GSR