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Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Transparency, in a business or governance context, is honesty and openness. Transparency and accountability are generally considered the two main pillars of good corporate governance.

The implication of transparency is that all of an organization’s actions should be scrupulous enough to bear public scrutiny. Increasingly, the nature of social media and other communications means that even actions intended to be secret may be brought into the public's awareness, despite an organization's best efforts to keep them hidden. The significant numbers of data breaches in recent years have raised public concern about how much of their data is collected and whether it is shared with third parties. That concern has also increasingly focused on government since whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked secret NSA (National Security Agency) documents in 2013 showing that the agency collected massive volumes of the data of United States citizens.

In general, transparency is the quality of being easily seen through.  The meaning of transparent is a little different in a computer science context, coming closer to meaning invisible or undetectable. A secondary meaning refers to complete predictability, as, for example, in a transparent computer system or program, output is entirely predictable from knowing the input.

This was last updated in November 2014

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