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    Obama White House: Big Data and the Future of Privacy

    Presidential adviser John Podesta, who also counseled President Clinton and founded the Center for American Progress, announced on the White House’s blog that he will “lead a comprehensive review of the way that ‘big data‘ will affect the way we live and work; the relationship between government and citizens; and how public and private sectors can spur innovation and maximize the opportunities and free flow of this information while minimizing the risks to privacy.” Podesta says this is in connection with Obama’s recent speech announcing reforms and proposed changes to National Security Agency surveillance programs that were revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, including the call record database surveillance program. The full transcript is here. Obama also issued a “Presidential Policy Directive, PPD-28,” (pdf) concerning signals intelligence activities.

    Podesta will be joined in this privacy and data assessment by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz, the president’s science adviser John Holdren, the president’s economic adviser Gene Sperling and other senior government officials. Podesta writes:

    When we complete our work, we expect to deliver to the President a report that anticipates future technological trends and frames the key questions that the collection, availability, and use of “big data” raise – both for our government, and the nation as a whole. It will help identify technological changes to watch, whether those technological changes are addressed by the U.S.’s current policy framework and highlight where further government action, funding, research and consideration may be required.

    This is going to be a collaborative effort. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) will conduct a study to explore in-depth the technological dimensions of the intersection of big data and privacy, which will feed into this broader effort. Our working group will consult with industry, civil liberties groups, technologists, privacy experts, international partners, and other national and local government officials on the significance of and future for these technologies. Finally, we will be working with a number of think tanks, academic institutions, and other organizations around the country as they convene stakeholders to discuss these very issues and questions. Likewise, many abroad are analyzing and responding to the challenge and seizing the opportunity of big data. These discussions will help to inform our study.

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