White House Big Data Report: 5 Privacy Takeaways - InformationWeek

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White House Big Data Report: 5 Privacy Takeaways

Big data raises serious privacy concerns that need to be addressed, sooner rather than later, report says.

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Big data's potential is enormous -- for good and bad. A new report from the White House on big data's transformative qualities takes a deep dive into data-related privacy and security issues.

The key takeaway: Big data is creating numerous privacy issues that need to be addressed, sooner rather than later. 

"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," the report's introduction states. "Americans' relationship with data should expand, not diminish, their opportunities and potential."

The report discusses a variety of privacy topics, including these five:  

1. De-identification doesn't always work.
Organizations often use privacy-protection technology to "de-identify" data linked to a specific person or device. Unfortunately, re-identification techniques are just as effective at piecing the link together again.

[What's next in big data? Read 3 Trends Driving Big Data Breakthroughs: A CIO's View.]

The report states: "…integrating diverse data can lead to what some analysts call the 'mosaic effect,' whereby personally identifiable information can be derived or inferred from datasets that do not even include personal identifiers, bringing into focus a picture of who an individual is and what he or she likes."

(Source: Philippe Teuwen)
(Source: Philippe Teuwen)

As technologies to re-identify "anonymous" data grow more powerful, it's unclear how individuals will control their information and identities, or challenge decisions based on information culled from multiple datasets.

2. "Perfect personalization" could aid discrimination.
The fusion of different types of unstructured data allows marketers to "deliver exactly the right message, product, or service to consumers before they even ask," the report says. "Unfortunately, 'perfect personalization' also leaves room for subtle and not-so-subtle forms of discrimination in pricing, services, and opportunities."  

Jeff Bertolucci is a technology journalist in Los Angeles who writes mostly for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, The Saturday Evening Post, and InformationWeek. View Full Bio

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User Rank: Author
5/8/2014 | 7:55:40 PM
Re: Meh... On the other hand...
Doug, you're right. This report really did little more than reiterate what's already been said of data privacy -- and did very little in addressing the continued open season marketers have on capturing and exploiting consumer data.

User Rank: Moderator
5/5/2014 | 1:36:26 PM
Reality of Data Seling not discussed
The data selling epidemic we have in the US was not discussed in the report, sad but what we have with the bliss out there and by the time they come around to what's really going on and the core of a lot of the issues they discussed, we are even more "screwed" if you will as bots don't have time for the current methodologies used in government.  Bots are there to make money as well as the people that create the algorihtms that run them.


Almost everything in the report is nothing new so I'm not sure what they thought they really did?  Are you?  So we have a report, I still think ALL data sellers need to be licensed as the scoring of America keeps growing the analytics used for or against consumers and it's a mad house with quantitated justifications for things that are just not true wiht high non linear error factors in the formulas.  Videos at the link below will bring you up to date as well as show you the automation that is out there to create such reports if people us it, scary, news uses bots to write data news if you not seen it. 



D. Henschen
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
5/5/2014 | 1:34:29 PM
Meh... On the other hand...
Big opportunities... and big worries. Seems like an inconclusive report that just invites more study. Point 3 seems off track -- why is "small data" relevant in a "big data" report. Were you expecting a White House report to come out with a clear and decisive opinion?

You know the nutrition labels required by the FDA on the sides of packaged food products -- calories, fat, etc. We need the FTC to have the authority to put simple, clear use-of-data labels on software, mobile/tablet apps, and Web sites. People need to know what they're giving up without reams of mice type and legal lingo. Make it clear and let the people decide! As it is the use of data is industry self regulated and the FTC has no abilty to require anything -- it only investigates the worst abuses it can find.
User Rank: Author
5/5/2014 | 10:38:20 AM
Big data privacy
Numbers 4 and 5 here are the ones that make many patients especially nervous. Research is important, but the ethical rules on what insurers can and will do with this mined data en masse haven't been written yet.
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