Ex-Microsoft CEO unveils government transparency database

Ex-Microsoft CEO unveils government transparency database
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Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on Tuesday officially released USAFacts, a new cache of easily accessible data on the U.S. government.

The data accessible on Ballmer’s new website spans a wide range, including figures on government spending, nationwide arrest rates and the total amount of visas granted in a given year.

The data provided on USAFacts is all public, and some of it has been collected by organizations and journalists in the past; however, the website offers a centralized, easily usable source for the public.  

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On the platform, users can access specific data through searches such as “arrests in 2014” or browse different subject areas. The database on government finance, for example, is divided up into six sections: revenue, spending, employment, balance sheets, government run businesses, and trust funds and pensions.

Ballmer said that he wanted to provide the information without a specific agenda.

“I think a lot of information is put out to make a point,” Ballmer told Recode in an interview. “People take a point of view, but then they pick the data that makes their point of view.”

Ballmer said that he's tried to play an objective role in the project.

He told The New York Times that he didn’t use the project as a tax write-off.

“I don’t even deduct this for my taxes. I pay this with after-tax money, no pretax money, because I don’t want anybody being able to think that factors in,” Ballmer said. "But I feel like it’s a civic contribution more than anything else.”

According to the Times, he has spent over $10 million on the project in direct funds and grants.