By Mollie Allick, June 22, 2010

Crowdsourcing the Goldman Sachs Investigation

When federal investigators asked Goldman Sachs for its transactions with insurance giant AIG, Goldman turned over the information — several hundred billion pages’ worth.

John Carney, senior editor at, had an idea for sifting through the data — crowdsource it.

We agree. In fact, CrowdFlower will categorize and tag the first 100,000 documents at no cost to the government.

If you’re just tuning in, the federal Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) subpoenaed Goldman for its AIG transactions, following accusations that Goldman cooked up a mortgage investment scheme that was rigged to fail.

FCIC has around 50 employees, an $8 million budget, and roughly six months to pore over the five terabytes of data. (Can you say, “Too small to succeed”?)

Clearly, technology presents a double-edged sword for investigators and other regulators.

On the one hand, companies under investigation can use technology to more efficiently bury investigators in terabytes of data (paging Goldman Sachs). On the other hand, technology provides tools for deftly sifting through the data (enter crowdsourcing).

Crowdsourcing public documents may be relatively new, but it’s not unprecedented. In fact, the British Parliament is under way with a project that uses crowdsourcing to investigate MPs’ expenses.

We’ll keep you posted on whether the government takes up our offer.

— Additional contributions by Anisha Sekar.