Empowering Consumers through the Smart Disclosure of Data

Today, the Administration’s interagency National Science and Technology Council released Smart Disclosure and Consumer Decision Making: Report of the Task Force on Smart Disclosurethe first comprehensive description of the Federal Government’s efforts to promote the smart disclosure of information that can help consumers make wise decisions in the marketplace.

Whether they are searching for colleges, health insurance, credit cards, airline flights, or energy providers, consumers can find it difficult to identify the specific product or service that best suits their particular needs. In some cases, the effort required to sift through all of the available information is so large that consumers make decisions using inadequate information. As a result, they may overpay, miss out on a product that would better meet their needs, or be surprised by fees.

The report released today outlines ways in which Federal agencies and other governmental and non-governmental organizations can use—and in many cases are already using—smart disclosure approaches that increase market transparency and empower consumers facing complex choices in domains such as health, education, energy and personal finance.

For instance, the Federal Government’s release of recall data has enabled services that allow consumers to monitor the products they own and keep their families safe. Through the Green Button initiative, a number of companies are providing tailored advice about how consumers can save money on their electricity bills--based on details about their own energy usage data. Another set of smart disclosure efforts focuses on giving consumers better access to their own health records so they can make informed choices about insurance plans and care providers.

These activities advance the Administration’s longstanding policy of leveraging data for the benefit of the economy and society—a policy that was strengthened earlier this month, when President Obama signed an Executive Order and the White House issued a policy memo requiring that, going forward, government data be made available in open, machine readable formats, while appropriately protecting privacy and security.

Smart disclosure is a common-sense application of the Administration’s commitment to make data available to consumers, entrepreneurs, and innovators. Today’s new report marks a milestone in these efforts and looks ahead to a future in which all Americans are empowered to make smart choices.

Melissa Koide is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consumer Policy at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Nick Sinai is the U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer.

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