The White House View on Information Privacy and Big Data

The White House has begun to look into what companies do with consumer information and recently completed a report on big data. The report looks at the use of information both by companies and the government. It analyzes areas including education, healthcare, advertising, law enforcement privacy law, and discrimination. The full 85 page report can be found at: The White House’s View on Information Privacy and Big Data.

The report includes a number of policy suggestions which contain a combination of technological and legal solutions to the issues raised by big data. The six recommendations from the report are:

  1. Advance the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. The Department of Commerce should take appropriate consultative steps to seek stakeholder and public comment on big data developments and how they impact the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and then devise draft legislative text for consideration by stakeholders and submission by the President to Congress.
  2. Pass National Data Breach Legislation. Congress should pass legislation that provides for a single national data breach standard along the lines of the Administration’s May 2011 Cybersecurity legislative proposal.
  3. Extend Privacy Protections to non-U.S. Persons. The Office of Management and Budget should work with departments and agencies to apply the Privacy Act of 1974 to non-U.S. persons where practicable, or to establish alternative privacy policies that apply appropriate and meaningful protections to personal information regardless of a person’s nationality.
  4. Ensure Data Collected on Students in School is Used for Educational Purposes. The federal government must ensure that privacy regulations protect students against having their data being shared or used inappropriately, especially when the data is gathered in an educational context.
  5. Expand Technical Expertise to Stop Discrimination. The federal government’s lead civil rights and consumer protection agencies should expand their technical expertise to be able to identify practices and outcomes facilitated by big data analytics that have a discriminatory impact on protected classes, and develop a plan for investigating and resolving violations of law.
  6. Amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Congress should amend ECPA 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 email left unread or over a certain age.


If you are interested in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights mentioned in the first suggestion, it can be found at the following link:

As the report points out, consumers deserve more transparency about how their data is shared. Here are two links to learn about what companies know and have been doing with consumer information:

This webpage contains a report compiled by the World Privacy Forum describing different ways companies are creating scores about consumers. For example, one company is able to use information it knows to predict how likely it is a person will take their medications as ordered by a doctor. Another is the consumer profitability score, used to predict how much money a company can make off of you.

This webpage contains a number of articles by the Wall Street Journal about what companies and the government know about you.

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