Taxonomy and Compliance

Compliance often has to deal with a great big piles of data. When tackling a big pile of data, it helps to organize the data into a taxonomy. The taxonomy helps with analysis.

Of course, just by choosing the nodes in the taxonomy you are influencing the view of the data.

I was struck by how hard it is to work with a taxonomy in a recent article in the Economist: In Quite a State. The article looked at the many different lists of countries in the world and the many different ways of defining a country.

The US Department of Homeland Security offers 251 choices when you apply online for a visa-free entry. That list includes Bouvet Island, uninhabited Antarctic volcanic island belonging to Norway in the South Atlantic.

Hotmail offers a menu 242 countries/regions when you register an e-mail account. The United Nations has 192 member states.

One of the most interesting examples is Taiwan or Chinese Taipei. During the days of the Cold War many countries recognized Taiwan as a separate country because it was the non-communist regime exiled from China. Now that mainland China has become an economic titan, only 23 countries have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

I am always struck by the treatment of Taiwan during Olympics, when their athletes walk behind a generic Olympic flag instead of the traditional Taiwan flag.

Adding an item or deleting an item to a taxonomy affects your view of the underlying data and affects the prominence of that item. It’s hard to “flag” a problem if it is not properly identified.