White House offers its big data report

The White House concluded its 90-day review of big data and privacy today with the release of Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values.

Led by White House Counselor John Podesta, the big data review heard from academics, civil society, government agencies, industry, privacy advocates, and the public in order to assemble its report. The March 17 event that Data & Society co-hosted with the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy and the NYU Information Law Institute was one of the gatherings that helped to inform the review.

Our event, The Social, Cultural & Ethical Dimensions of “Big Data,” is now fully archived. Videos, detailed workshop notes, links to other events in the series, and more are preserved at http://datasociety.net/initiatives/2014-0317/.


And now we’re digging into the White House’s report. There’s lots to digest. We’re grateful for the seriousness with which the Administration considered the potential benefits and consequences of data-centric technological development. We’re particularly encouraged by the deep reflections on the issues of discrimination and power asymmetries that surround the big data phenomenon. Keeping these concerns front and center will be key to using data to benefit society as a whole. Privacy is an important value that should be celebrated and not seen as a barrier to innovation; we support the Administration’s recognition of this. We are also happy to see the Administration recognize the importance of access to data in order to enable innovation, empower citizens, and advance scientific progress. Making data available for public good does not require violating people’s trust, privacy, or expectations. The world of big data will require balance and thoughtfulness, recognition of power and a commitment to ethical standards.

We hope you will take the time to explore and build upon our March 17 event archive, as well as pick up the White House report and give it a close read. Data & Society Chief Instigator danah boyd has posted her initial thoughts here. The goal of Data & Society is to make certain that we have the right frameworks for grappling with the social, cultural, and ethical issues presented to us by data-centric developments. With this in mind, we would love to hear your reactions to the White House’s report and reflections on the topic at hand. Please send your thoughts to [email protected].

Now is the time to engage these difficult issues. We’re just getting started. And we’d love to hear your insights!