White House report agrees Data Collection Overhaul is Needed
It’s been a little over three months since President Obama‘s major speech earlier this year where he promised to inquire into federal data collection. This Thursday, his White House counsel John Podesta (full disclosure: an old co-worker of mine) released the results of a 90-day survey of government and private sector data collection practices .
In sum, the report from the survey, titled “Big Data and Privacy: A Technological Perspective”, prepared by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, concluded that indeed there needs to be a further inquiry into changing what type of data is collected, and it recommended that the government take steps to do so.
It’s a critical initial move.
The maneuver is of course a byproduct of the National Security Agency (NSA) scandal where the government collected large amounts of data from everyone when it said it only looked further into data of those who it suspects of communicating with, funding or cooperating with terrorists or other security threats to the nation. Exiled Edward Snowden leaked this information and other critical data to news organizations.
The effort to overhaul the data collection laws is also a result of privacy advocates call for the federal government to update the nation’s privacy laws since the last time it was dealt with during the passing of the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
Privacy advocacy groups The Center for Democracy and Technology and the American Civil Liberties Union and privacy coalition Digital 4th praised the report, The Hill.com reports.
“By recognizing that online and offline communications should be treated the same, the report lays the groundwork for keeping everyone’s emails, texts, and photos private and secure,”American Civil Liberties Union counsel Christopher Calabrese told the site.
Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) called the effort a crack down on “Big Data”, data brokers, “who collect and sell information about consumers,” adding “This conversation is long overdue.”
The biggest data collectors, including Facebook and Google, have weighed in promising to look over the report and react accordingly.
This should all be interesting as some privacy advocates are fearful that it doesn’t go far enough because the focus is on the definition of what can be collected rather on privacy per se exclusively and how to protect consumers’ private information, the Hill story noted.