In January, President Obama requested his top economic and science advisers to conduct a wide-ranging review of big data and privacy to determine how these technologies are changing the economy, the government and our society, and their implications for personal privacy. On May 1, the Big Data and Privacy Working Group presented its initial conclusions and recommendations.
The group’s report noted the many ways big data is helping to streamline processes and facilitate the collection, analysis, and access to life-saving data. It noted that the big data revolution presents tremendous opportunities in every sector of the economy and every corner of society. However, it also raises serious questions about the ability to appropriately protect individuals’ privacy and the potential for big data analytics to lead to discriminatory “outcomes.”
“No matter how quickly technology advances, it remains within our power to ensure that we both encourage innovation and protect our values through law, policy, and the practices we encourage in the public and private sector,” stated the group’s leader, John Podesta. To that end, the working group submitted six policy recommendations:
- Advance the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights to provide clear, understandable, reasonable standards for how personal information is used in the big data era.
- Pass national data breach legislation that provides for a single national data breach standard.
- Extend privacy protections to non-U.S. persons, acknowledging that privacy is a worldwide value that should be reflected in how the federal government handles personally identifiable information about non-U.S. citizens.
- Ensure data collected on students in school is used for educational purposes and protect students against their data being shared or used inappropriately.
- Expand technical expertise of the government’s lead civil rights and consumer protection agencies to enable them to identify practices and outcomes facilitated by Big Data analytics that have a discriminatory impact on protected classes.
- Amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to ensure the standard of protection for online, digital content is consistent with that afforded in the physical world.