White House Issues Big Data Report

On May 1, 2014, the White House released its report, “Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values” (Big Data Report). The Big Data Report compiles and analyzes findings from workshops and meetings that were intended to address what makes “big data” unique, the interplay of big data and privacy, and how existing policies and the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights may apply to big data. The Big Data Report includes six policy recommendations (1) advance the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights; (2) pass national data breach legislation; (3) extend privacy protections to foreign individuals; (4) ensure that student data is collected only for educational purposes; (5) increase technical education to reduce discrimination; and (6) amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

The Big Data Report comes after a ninety-day scoping exercise requested by President Obama in January. For this exercise, White House advisor John Podesta led a working group on big data composed of senior government officials. The working group held three workshops and consulted with representatives of industry, academia, civil rights groups, law enforcement, and government agencies.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology also issued a report on the same day entitled “Big Data and Privacy: A Technological Perspective,” which analyzes the technologies used in big data analysis.

White House Calls on the Department of Commerce to Draft Privacy Bill

In the White House Big Data Report issued on May 1, 2014, the White House called on the Department of Commerce (Department) to seek public comment on how the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights—a proposal for legislation articulated by the Obama Administration in its Privacy Report of February 2012—could support the innovations of big data while at the same time responding to its risks. The Report also asked the Department to seek comment on how the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights could encompass the responsible use framework described in the Big Data Report.

Accordingly, the Department published its Request for Public Comment in the Federal Register on June 6, 2014, with a period of 60 days available for the public to submit comments.3   The Request for Comment invites public comment from all stakeholders, including the commercial, academic, and public interest sectors; legislators; and governmental consumer protection and enforcement agencies. Following the comment period, the White House report called on the Department of Commerce to write draft legislation to be considered by stakeholders and ultimately for the President to submit to Congress.