On June 4, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issued a Request for Comments about the effect of “big data” developments on the Obama Administration’s framework for protecting consumers’ personal information issued in 2012 -- entitled a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” (CPBR). 

“Big data,” as defined in the White House’s May 1, 2014 report Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values (the “Big Data Report”), is the growing body of information generated by the increasing technological ability to capture, aggregate and process increasing amounts of data from a wider variety of sources.  The Big Data Report recommends that NTIA seek public comment on these big data developments from all stakeholders, with the goal of drafting legislation to address individual privacy concerns associated with big data.  The public comment period ends on August 5, 2014. 

Among the questions posed in the NTIA Request for Comments are:

  • How can the CPBR and potential legislation be drafted or modified to address the risks and benefits of big data?
  • Will the existing “notice and consent” framework for privacy protection (which allows data collectors to use data if consumers have given informed consent) be adequate as big data increasingly facilitates the use of data in unanticipated contexts?
  • To what extent should data holders be required to delete or correct data at a consumer’s request?  Given the redundant and distributed nature of data storage, to what extent is full deletion or correction even possible?
  • How should the CPBR and any future legislation deal with discrimination against individuals and groups that big data could facilitate?

The Big Data Report instructs the Department of Commerce (of which NTIA is a part) to draft legislative text for consideration following the public comment period.

In an earlier Request for Comments issued in March 2012, NTIA sought public input regarding the CPBR.  Consumer and civil liberties groups have expressed concern because since then -- more than two years later -- Congress has still not approved legislation implementing the CPBR.  Unlike the report accompanying the CPBR’s release, however, the Big Data Report specifically instructs the Department of Commerce to develop draft legislative text, so NTIA’s comment process could lead to a draft big data bill in the not-too-distant future.