WASHINGTON, May 1, 2014 – A White House panel says Big Data is creating “incredible opportunities” for health care, energy use, education and agriculture, but also presents enormous challenges, especially to individual privacy.

The panel, led by presidential counselor John Podesta, reviewed the implications of Big Data for 90 days at the request of President Obama and, in a report released today, made six policy recommendations.

The panel called for:

  • Advancing the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights “because consumers deserve clear, understandable, reasonable standards for how their personal information is used in the Big Data era.”
  • Passing national data breach legislation that provides for a single national data breach standard, along the lines of the administration's 2011 Cybersecurity legislative proposal.
  • Extending privacy protections to non-U.S. persons.
  • Ensuring data collected on students in school is used for educational purposes to drive better learning outcomes while protecting students against their data being shared or used inappropriately.
  • Expanding technical expertise to stop discrimination.
  • Amending the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to ensure the standard of protection for online, digital content is consistent with that afforded in the physical world – including by removing archaic distinctions between e-mail left unread or over a certain age.

The group that conducted the review included Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, the President's Science Advisor John Holdren, Economic Advisor Jeff Zients and other senior administration officials. The panel sought public input and worked with universities, privacy advocates, regulators and the technology industry, advertisers and civil rights groups, the international community and the American public. This work was supported by a parallel effort by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology to research the technological trends underpinning big data.

In a White House blog, Podesta called attention to the deadly storms that battered Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas and other states in recent days, noting that a geospatial technology company called Esri was able to create a real-time map showing where the twisters had been spotted and how the storm systems were moving.

“It's a powerful tool for emergency services and communities,” Podesta wrote. “And it's driven by Big Data technology.”


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