By Donald W. Meyers | March 30th, 2009
The Associated Press reports that the Federal Aviation Administration has reversed its previous decision to release a database of bird strikes on commercial aircraft, the kind of thing that forced a commercial airliner crew to ditch their plane in the Hudson River recently. The AP had requested the database under the Freedom of Information Act.
The reason: People may misinterpret the data and hold it against airports and airlines, and the carriers would withhold the voluntarily collected data from the government.
This is a classic example of the “third-person effect.” In a nutshell it’s this: You and I may not be affected by this, but someone else, who’s not as sophisticated as us, will take it the wrong way.
We shouldn’t let rhetorical fallacies dictate what records are released to the public. The traveling public has the right to know how often bird strikes occur and what is being done to combat it.
If there is a concern about misunderstandings, locking up the information is not going to clear things up. It creates greater apprehension. Instead, we need all the information released, along with whatever else is needed to make it understandable.
Thanks to The Salt Lake Tribune’s FOI blog, The Vault, for pointing out this outrage.