The government has to deal with a complex web of regulations that luckily, schools don’t have to navigate. However, your students will have to understand how policies and organizational habits play into how data is (or isn’t) shared in the field. Regulations and privacy concerns makes it hard for agencies to access relevant information and collaborate to form effective and efficient solutions for people.
Most large-scale and reputable data collection efforts, like the Census, are tightly monitored. Who can access the results and how those results can be shared is limited, partly to respect privacy laws and partly because the policy was written before current technologies like Artificial Intelligence existed. If your students need to work with these data sets, not only will they need to understand who owns each but also which statutes apply to which sets and sometimes, will need to learn how to change them to broaden access and leverage the data to its full potential value.
The good news is that data privacy is a top concern for social work agencies and governing bodies. The bad news is that microdata, which helps analysts understand local trends and how small changes in one variable can impact people and communities differently, can teeter on the edge of privacy concerns. As the HHS notes, “The risk of identifying geographic areas or violating individual privacy increases as more variables and more granular data are collected and shared, often leading to an increase in limits on microdata access.” Your students will need to know how to keep data secure as well as how to use it in a way that doesn’t violate privacy laws.