Government's Addiction to Contractors Is Creating a Data Crisis

“The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence and the proliferation of data worldwide, estimated to reach 200 zettabytes, have ushered in an era of unprecedented technological growth. However, despite this data abundance, there exists a crisis in accessing research data, with the government and private sector being identified as primary contributors to the problem. Recent events, such as a federal court case where the government argued that basic diversity statistics of its contractors' workforces were secret, highlight the extent of this crisis. Despite the vital importance of such information for ensuring workplace diversity and equity, agencies and their contractors have staunchly defended their decision to withhold it, often citing trade secrets and proprietary information as justifications (TheHill, 2024).”

“This trend extends beyond federal contracts, with states also engaging in similar practices of concealment. For example, records pertaining to healthcare, criminal justice, and public resources have been deemed confidential, further limiting access to critical information. Legal precedents, including recent Supreme Court rulings, have further complicated the issue by expanding the definition of confidential business information. This has empowered contractors to shield data from public scrutiny, eroding transparency in government operations (TheHill, 2024).”

Security Officer Comments:
“The privatization of government functions has exacerbated this problem. With an increasing reliance on contractors, government agencies have outsourced essential services ranging from healthcare administration to defense contracts. Consequently, access to public information diminishes as government data becomes shrouded in secrecy through contractor agreements. This concerning trend has significant implications for accountability and civil liberties. Without access to critical data, citizens are unable to effectively monitor government activities or hold officials accountable for their actions. Moreover, the proliferation of government technology collecting intimate data further exacerbates the issue, limiting individuals' access to their own information (TheHill, 2024).”

Suggested Corrections:
“Urgent intervention by the courts is necessary to reverse this trend and uphold transparency in government operations. Establishing a due process right of access to government records, similar to existing precedents in select cases, is essential to safeguarding public access to information and preserving the principles of open governance. Failure to address this crisis will only deepen the divide between government actions and public oversight, undermining democracy and accountability (TheHill, 2024).”