NEWS21 January 2014

Obama draws analytics into surveillance row

Data analytics Government News North America

US — President Barack Obama has provoked the ire of the marketing industry with a speech that drew parallels between the government’s digital eavesdropping and the data advertisers collect for analytics and targeting.


In a speech outlining changes to the way the US collects intelligence data, Obama said that reviews commissioned in the wake of the Prism scandal had brought about a recognition “that the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone”.

He said: “Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyse our data, and use it for commercial purposes; that’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically.”

Obama went on to announce a new “comprehensive review of big data and privacy” that would look at “how the challenges inherent in big data are being confronted by both the public and private sectors; whether we can forge international norms on how to manage this data; and how we can continue to promote the free flow of information in ways that are consistent with both privacy and security”.

But in response to the speech, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) hit back with some words of its own. In a statement, the DMA said it was “disappointed to see the responsible use of consumer data for marketing purposes conflated with government surveillance”.

It added: “As revelations regarding NSA practices have come to light in recent months, DMA has been working hard to make it clear to policymakers and the media that issues around government surveillance are not related to data-driven marketing.”