White House

During his speech earlier this week at the Federal Trade Commission, President Obama unveiled a set of proposals to enhance student privacy protections.  These proposals will include publishing a draft Student Digital Privacy Act, promoting an existing Student Privacy Pledge for educational technology providers, and introducing new privacy tools through the Department of Education.
Continue Reading President Obama Proposes New Legislation and Model Terms of Service to Protect Student Privacy

On Tuesday, President Obama announced his proposal for legislation that would encourage sharing of cyber threat information between the public and private sector by shielding private entities from liability for sharing information on cyber threats. The White House has since released the text of the proposed bill, which includes limitations on liability for private entities along with a mandate to develop policies and procedures to address privacy concerns. In comparison with previous failed attempts to enact similar legislation, the current White House proposal offers increased privacy protections and more narrowly defined exemptions from liability, but it remains to be seen whether this proposal can succeed where others have failed.
Continue Reading Analysis of President Obama’s Information Sharing Legislation

The Department of Energy and the Federal Smart Grid Task Force released the final version of a Voluntary Code of Conduct (VCC) for smart grid data privacy on Monday, several hours after President Obama heralded the release of the VCC as part of his speech on privacy and cybersecurity at the Federal Trade Commission.  The VCC is the result of a multi-year effort by the Department of Energy and the Federal Smart Grid Task Force to collaborate with industry stakeholders to develop a voluntary code of conduct that addresses smart grid privacy concerns.  The VCC does not supersede any federal, state, or local laws or regulations.  Instead, it serves as a set of “high level principles of conduct for both utilities and third parties.”  The VCC does, however, contemplate that entities could adopt the VCC with “limited exceptions” where required by other laws or regulations.
Continue Reading Department of Energy, Federal Smart Grid Task Force Release Smart Grid Voluntary Code of Conduct to Address Data Privacy Concerns

At the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Mauritius this week, representatives of the private sector and academia joined together to discuss the positive changes and attendant risks that the internet of things and big data may bring to daily life. Attendees memorialized the observations and conclusions of their discussions in a Declaration on the Internet of Things and a Resolution on Big Data. The documents are not, of course, binding. But, the fact that the Declaration and Resolution drew the consensus of a large gathering of international data protection regulators renders them relevant indicators of direction of data privacy policies and trends.
Continue Reading Data Protection Officials Adopt Internet of Things Declaration and Big Data Resolution

As we have previously reported, in less than two weeks the FTC will host its anticipated workshop on big data and discrimination.  Today the FTC announced a full agenda and panelists for the September 15th event, “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?” which will take place in Washington, D.C., at the Constitution Center.  The workshop is open to the public, and registration begins at 8 a.m.  The following provides a full schedule of speakers and panels.
Continue Reading Schedule of Panelists for FTC’s Upcoming Big Data & Discrimination Workshop

Last Friday, the FTC announced an agenda for its upcoming workshop, “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?” which will take place on Monday, Sept. 15, starting at 8:00 a.m.  As we’ve previously reported, the workshop will build on recent efforts by the FTC and other government agencies to understand how new technologies affect the economy, government, and society, and the implications on individual privacy.  In particular, while there has been much recognition for the value of big data in revolutionizing consumer services and generally enabling “non‐obvious, unexpectedly powerful uses” of information, there has been parallel focus on the extent to which practices and outcomes facilitated by big-data analytics could have discriminatory effects on protected communities.

The workshop will explore the use of big data and its impact on consumers, including low-income and underserved consumers, and will host the following panel discussions:

  • Assessing the Current Environment.  Examine current uses of big data in various contexts and how these uses impact consumers.
  • What’s on the Horizon with Big Data?  Explore potential uses of big data and possible benefits and harms for particular populations of consumers.
  • Surveying the Legal Landscape.  Review anti-discrimination and consumer-protection laws and discuss how they may apply to the use of big data, and whether there may be gaps in the law.
  • Mapping the Path Forward.  Consider best practices for the use of big data to protect consumers.

The FTC hopes that the workshop will build on the dialogue raised in its Spring Privacy Seminar Series held from February through May, which addressed mobile-device tracking, data brokers and predictive scoring, and consumer generated and controlled health data.  The workshop will convene academic experts, business representatives, industry leaders, and consumer advocates, and will be open to the general public. In advance of the workshop, the FTC has invited the public to file comments, reports, and original research on the proposed topics. The deadline to submit pre-workshop comments is August 15. Following the workshop on September 15, the comment period will remain open until October 15.

The workshop comes on the heels of the White House’s anticipated report on big data released in May, which outlined the administration’s priorities in protecting privacy and data security in an era of big data.  With an entire section dedicated to “Big Data and Discrimination,” the report warned that big data “could enable new forms of discrimination and predatory practices.”  Chiefly focusing on the use of information, the report showed concern about using data to discriminate against vulnerable groups.  Specifically, the report stated that “the ability to segment the population and to stratify consumer experiences so seamlessly as to be almost undetectable demands greater review, especially when it comes to the practice of differential pricing and other potentially discriminatory practices.” 
Continue Reading The FTC’s Agenda to Tackle Big Data and Discrimination

In conjunction with the White House’s comprehensive review of big-data and privacy issues that resulted in a 79-page report, last week the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (“PCAST”) released a parallel big-data report.  The White House report is more general and contains six major policy recommendations, whereas the PCAST report, authored by an outside panel of counselors, was designed to provide a technical evaluation by examining the practical specifics of how big data and related technologies are actually used.  Many observations and recommendations in the PCAST report are consistent with those presented in the White House report.  The PCAST report, however, has been praised for its candor and for appearing to be more clear, even bold, in advocating particular positions on key issues.  For example, in recommending a transition away from “notice and consent” — described in the White House report as a “central pillar” of the U.S. privacy legal system — and towards a “use” framework, the PCAST report states:  “Only in some fantasy world do users actually read these notices and understand their implications before clicking to indicate their consent.”Continue Reading Another Big Data Report, From the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (“PCAST”)

Today the White House released its big data and privacy report, entitled “Big Data:  Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values.”  The report is the result of a three-month review, which was led by White House counselor John Podesta and was first announced as part of the President’s January speech on NSA reform.  It primarily outlines the

As part of the White House’s ongoing review of “big data” and its implications for privacy, the economy, and public policy, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (“OSTP”) has announced that it is requesting comments from the public on several key issues.

OSTP’s Request for Information asks commenters to consider the following questions:

  1. What are the public policy implications of the collection, storage, analysis, and use of big data?  For example, do the current U.S. policy framework and privacy proposals for protecting consumer privacy and government use of data adequately address issues raised by big data analytics?
  2. What types of uses of big data could measurably improve outcomes or productivity with further government action, funding, or research?  What types of uses of big data raise the most public policy concerns?  Are there specific sectors or types of uses that should receive more government and/or public attention?
  3. What technological trends or key technologies will affect the collection, storage, analysis and use of big data?  Are there particularly promising technologies or new practices for safeguarding privacy while enabling effective uses of big data?
  4. How should the policy frameworks or regulations for handling big data differ between the government and the private sector?  Please be specific as to the type of entity and type of use (e.g., law enforcement, government services, commercial, academic research, etc.).
  5. What issues are raised by the use of big data across jurisdictions, such as the adequacy of current international laws, regulations, or norms?

The deadline for responses is March 31.  The full Request for Information, including details on submitting responses, is available here.

Continue Reading White House Seeks Public Comment on Implications of Big Data

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (“OSTP”) is set to co-host a series of at least three public workshops to review “the implications of collecting, analyzing, and using” big data. The series continues the White House’s 2014 focus on privacy and big data, which began on January 17 with President Obama’s discussion of big data and U.S. intelligence programs more broadly at the Department of Justice. The announcement also comes one month after the White House appointed Counselor John Podesta to lead a “comprehensive review” of how big data affects how Americans “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.” The Podesta-led collaborative review will culminate in a report to the President, expected to be delivered in April 2014.Continue Reading White House Announces Three Workshops to Explore “Big Data”