NEWS6 May 2014

White House big data report renews call for privacy legislation

Government News North America

US — The White House has released a report on big data following a 90 day review.


Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values, released on May 1, resulted from a 90 day review into a range of topics, including the Obama Administration’s open data initiative, public sector data management and private sector uses of data. It is intended to define what is new about emerging technologies; to explore how big data affects public policy and particularly privacy law; to examine challenges that big data creates for the principles underlying the Administration’s Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights approach; and to lay out an agenda for government leadership on issues related to big data.

A key finding of the report is that big data is creating privacy issues that need to be addressed. The introduction to the report states: “A significant finding of this report is that big data analytics have the potential to eclipse longstanding civil rights protections in how personal information is used in housing, credit, employment, health, education, and the marketplace.

“Americans’ relationship with data should expand, not diminish, their opportunities and potential.”

Key outcomes of the report are:

  • a call to introduce comprehensive privacy legislation based on the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights model
  • a proposal to extend privacy protections to non-US citizens
  • a call for expanded technical expertise to stop discrimination in areas such as housing and employment
  • a call for reforms to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)

According to an article on business technology news site Information Week, the report has earned both praise and scepticism from industry experts. While some business and technology groups for its grasp of how big data can make positive impacts by improving education and healthcare and uncovering wasteful spending, the article states, the same groups have warned that government attempts to regulate data collection could interfere with productivity and job growth.