Statement in Response to White House “Big Data” Report
WASHINGTON (May 1, 2014) – In response to the report “Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values” released today by the White House, Daniel Castro, director of the Center for Data Innovation, issued the following statement:
“The White House released its much anticipated report on big data today which correctly recognizes the enormous potential economic and social benefits of data. The report highlights a number of important policies that can strengthen data-driven innovation such as embracing government data as a public resource, promoting the use of data in fields such as education and health care, and investing in more research for privacy enhancing technologies. The report also correctly notes that it is crucial for Congress to address the issue of law enforcement access to data by updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act so that data stored in the cloud is afforded the same protections as data stored offline. In addition, the United States needs to address barriers to free trade by promoting the free flow of information globally. Finally, the report correctly identifies the fundamental difficulties in attempting to regulate data collection, calling it “challenging, if not impossible.”
However, the report disproportionately focuses on fears that big data might harm consumers by violating their privacy, threatening their civil liberties, and hurting their pocketbooks. For example, the report renews a call to support the Administration’s proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, an attempt initiated in 2012 to impose unnecessary restrictions on the collection and use of data by the private sector. The report also repeats some mistaken beliefs such as the notion that “once data is collected, it can be very difficult to keep anonymous” or that “re-identification is becoming more powerful than de-identification.” While there have been some very high-profile examples of data re-identification, techniques do exist to effectively de-identify data.
Overall, the report is a reminder that the opportunities from data are vast and unprecedented and, contrary to some press reports, the impact of big data is not all “doom and gloom.” The Administration should be commended for recognizing opportunities to advance data-driven innovation, but the report is a reminder that we have a long way to go before Washington gets over its fear of big data.”