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Consumer Watchdog Tells White House Team People Have Right To Control Data

Joins Other Public Interest Groups In Spelling Out Six Requirements For Big Data Policy

SANTA MONICA, Calif., April 1, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Consumer Watchdog has told the White House Team studying the Obama Administration's policy towards "Big Data" that "people must be able to know what information is gathered about them, how long it is kept and for what the information will be used."

Consumer Watchdog also joined 21 other public interest groups in a statement to the White House Big Data study group headed by John Podesta, Senior Counselor to the President and Nicole Wong, Deputy Chief Technology Officer, spelling out six key requirements for good Big Data policy.

"In the murky world of data brokers there is virtually no transparency," wrote John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director. "People don't know what digital dossiers have been assembled about them, what the data is used for or what decisions are being made about them without their knowledge."

Read Consumer Watchdog's comments here:

"We call on the Administration to introduce baseline privacy legislation and to implement the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights," wrote Simpson. "You must protect a person's right to control whether data about him or her is collected and how it is used."

The comments from the 22-member coalition said that while Big Data can support commercial growth, government programs, and opportunities for innovation, it "creates new problems including pervasive surveillance; the collection, use, and retention of vast amounts of personal data; profiling and discrimination; and the very real risk that over time more decision-making about individuals will be automated, opaque, and unaccountable."

Here are the six requirements the 22 groups said must be included in the White House's final report on Big Data and the Future of Privacy:

TRANSPARENCY: Entities that collect personal information should be transparent about what information they collect, how they collect it, who will have access to it, and how it is intended to be used. Furthermore, the algorithms employed in Big Data should be made available to the public.

OVERSIGHT: Independent mechanisms should be put in place to assure the integrity of the data and the algorithms that analyze the data. These mechanisms should help ensure the accuracy and the fairness of the decision-making.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Entities that improperly use data or algorithms for profiling or discrimination should be held accountable. Individuals should have clear recourse to remedies to address unfair decisions about them using their data. They should be able to easily access and correct inaccurate information collected about them.

ROBUST PRIVACY TECHNIQUES: Techniques that help obtain the advantages of big data while minimizing privacy risks should be encouraged. But these techniques must be robust, scalable, provable, and practical. And solutions that may be many years into the future provide no practical benefit today.

MEANINGFUL EVALUATION: Entities that use big data should evaluate its usefulness on an ongoing basis and refrain from collecting and retaining data that is not necessary for its intended purpose. We have learned that the massive metadata program created by the NSA has played virtually no role in any significant terrorism investigation. We suspect this is true also for many other "Big Data" programs.

CONTROL: Individuals should be able to exercise control over the data they create or is associated with them, and decide whether the data should be collected and how it should be used if collected.

Read the public interest groups' joint comments here:

The 22 groups who signed the joint statement are: Advocacy for Principled Action in Government, American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Center for Digital Democracy, Center for Effective Government, Center for Media Justice, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Task Force for Automotive Issues, Consumer Watchdog, Council for Responsible Genetics, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Foolproof Initiative,, National Center for Transgender Equality, Patient Privacy Rights PEN American Center, Privacy Journal, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Privacy Times, and Public Citizen, Inc.

Visit Consumer Watchdog's website at

SOURCE Consumer Watchdog

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