May 9, 2014

Big data report from the White House

Another big data review, this time from the White House - "Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values" (pdf). The report explains what big data is (large, diverse, complex, longitudinal, distributed, making possible unexpected discoveries and creating an asymmetry of power between those who hold the data and those who intentionally or inadvertently supply it) and describes implications of big data for public and private sectors. In addition to many known and less known examples of how big data can be good or bad, the report provides initial thoughts on recommendations for big data governance. It divided its approach to policy framework into four overlapping core areas:

1. Big data and citizens - improve public services while preventing the government from accruing unlimited power by using increased surveillance, algorithmic profiling, and metadata tracking.

2. Big data and consumers - reduce cost of commercial services and personalize them while mitigating security breaches and risks of discrimination based on consumer profiles and lack of consumer awareness and data transparency.

3. Big data and discrimination - do less harm and prevent discriminatory uses of identification and re-identification techniques.

4. Big data and privacy - get used to less privacy while reconsidering the notice and consent framework.

In the concluding section the report had the following recommendations:

  • Advance the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.
  • Pass National Data Breach Legislation.
  • Extend Privacy Protections to non-U.S. Persons.
  • Ensure Data Collected on Students in School is Used for Educational Purposes.
  • Expand Technical Expertise to Stop Discrimination.
  • Amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

It's a thorough report and is definitely worth a read, but similarly to my and my colleagues big data review (pre-print), it's just the beginning of studying implications and governance of big data.