White House sees potential for discrimination in big data usage

Next week, White House counselor John Podesta is set to present the results of a 90-day “big data” study, commissioned by President Barack Obama in January as part of a wave of NSA reform announcements. According to the Associated Press, Podesta’s study will hinge largely on the discriminatory potential of the mountains of data accumulated by public and private firms alike. The study’s results could mean changes to federal anti-discrimination laws, particularly in the case of financial and employment policies.

A White House review of how the government and private sector use large sets of data has found that such information could be used to discriminate against Americans on issues such as housing and employment even as it makes their lives easier in many ways. “Big data” is everywhere. It allows mapping apps to ping cellphones anonymously and determine, in real time, what roads are the most congested. But it also can be used to target economically vulnerable people. The issue came up during a 90-day review ordered by President Barack Obama, White House counselor John Podesta said in an interview with The Associate Press. Podesta did not discuss all the findings, but said the potential for discrimination is an issue that warrants a closer look.

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