The White House wants better privacy regulations for big data

The White House is asking Congress to pass new privacy laws that would add more safeguards for Americans’ data and provide more protections for emails sought in the course of a law enforcement investigation. The recommendations are among six offered by President Barack Obama’s counselor John Podesta in a report released Thursday. While large sets of data make Americans’ lives easier and can help save lives, the report noted, they also could be used to discriminate against Americans in areas such as housing and employment.

In outlining the new proposals, John Podesta, the counselor to the president who led a three-month study of privacy and big data, took pains to highlight the myriad ways in which data collected from sensors, smartphones and other networked devices and objects can yield valuable social and economic benefits. Big data functions like predictive analytics and continuous monitoring can help stem the spread of infectious diseases or provide advance warning about potential mechanical failures in jet engines, for instance. At the same time, Podesta cautioned that “big data raises serious questions, too, about how we protect our privacy,” suggesting that businesses need to provide users with more meaningful ways to understand and control how their information is being collected and used.


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