News Feature | July 30, 2014

NTIA Seeks Comments On Big Data Impact

By Trisha Leon, contributing writer

Comments On Big Data Impact

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is seeking public comment on how developments related to Big Data impact the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

On June 4, NTIA issued a Request for Comments to be accepted during a 60-day comment period, on the action called for in the White House’s Big Data and Privacy working group report on Big Data. The group led by Counselor to the President John Podesta presented its findings to President Barack Obama on May 1.

Podesta, along with other White House senior officials, discovered that Big Data presents incredible opportunities in virtually every sector of the economy and every corner of society. He states, “The declining cost of collection, storage, and processing of data, combined with new sources of data like sensors, cameras, and geospatial technologies, mean that we live in a world of near-ubiquitous data collection. All this data is being crunched at a speed that is increasingly approaching real-time, meaning that big data algorithms could soon have immediate effects on decisions being made about our lives.”

The review reveals that Big Data is saving lives and making the economy and government work better. But it raises some serious concerns, too. How can we protect our privacy and values in a world where data collection is increasingly ubiquitous and where analysis is conducted at speeds approaching real time? How can we analyze data in a way that does not lead to discrimination or circumvent long-standing civil rights protections?

Podesta and the other officials who conducted the review hoped to start a national conversation about how to use Big Data for the public good. Though they recognize Big Data presents challenges, they believe that the U.S. is in the best position to lead the conversation and encourage the free flow of information while working to protect privacy.

The group made six recommendations:

  1. Pass national data breech legislation to provide a single national data breech standard;
  2. Extend privacy protections to non-U.S. persons;
  3. Ensure data collection on students in school is used for educational purposes;
  4. Expand technical enterprise to stop discrimination;
  5. Amend the Electronics Communications Privacy Act; and
  6. Advance the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights to uphold reasonable standards as to how personal information is used.

“As the White House’s big data report notes, there are many potential societal benefits from the use of big data,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling. “We are now asking the public to help us assess how big data might impact the protections called for in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.”

The NTIA specifically asks for comments in these areas:

  • How the principles in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights support innovations related to Big Data while also responding to potential privacy risks
  • Whether the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights should be clarified or modified to better  accommodate the benefits or risks of Big Data
  • Whether a responsible use framework should be used to address the challenges posed by Big Data
  • Mechanisms to best address the limits of the “notice and consent” model for privacy protection noted in the big data report