CDD to White House Big Data Review: data collection apparatus leading to a commercial surveillance complex

By: Jeff Chester | Mar 31 2014

Today is the deadline for Comments to be filed for the White House's forthcoming report on "Big Data."  NGOs pressed the Administration to include public comments during its 90-day inquiry that is led by Senior WH Counselor John Podesta.  Our comments are attached.  Here's an excerpt:

The inability to implement basic privacy rules in the United States to address Internet data collection practices has resulted in the ubiquitous commercial surveillance landscape that today threatens the privacy of Americans—as well as those in the European Union and other countries where U.S. companies collect and transport their information...CDD believes the Big Data report must address the realties of today’s commercial data gathering and analysis landscape. While we acknowledge the many positive uses of Big Data, and its potential, the Administration should not gloss over the threats as well.  We fear that missing for the most part in the White House’s review will be a fact-based assessment of actual commercial data practices conducted by Google, Facebook, Yahoo, data brokers, and many others. Such a review would reveal an out-of-control commercial data collection apparatus, with no restraints, and which is leading to a commercial surveillance complex that should be antithetical in a democratic society. The report should show the consequences of such information gathering on Americans, where the data can be immediately made “actionable.” It should address the consequences when predictive analysis and other “insight” identification applications trigger real-time and future decisions about the products and services we are offered, the content we may receive, and even the online “experiences” with which we interact. The report should make clear how its Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Principles should be interpreted when data collected from Americans are used to unfairly target them—and their families—for products and services that can be harmful to their well-being (such as the delivery of high-interest payday loans, promotion of questionable medical treatments, and the targeting of junk food ads to children, which contributes to the nation’s obesity epidemic).

The filing covers 6 key issues: 

The Growth of Ubiquitous Cross-Platform and Across-Application Tracking of Individuals Online:

The Emergence of Big-Data-derived Comprehensive Data Profiles on Individuals (Data Management Platforms):

The Digital Data Collection Apparatus, Including the Use of Multiple Data Sources and the Real-time Buying and Selling of American Internet Users:

The Growth of Commercial Digital Surveillance at the Community, Hyper-local Level:

The Delivery of Financial, Health, and Other Products Linked to Sensitive Data and Uses that Raise Consumer Protection Concerns:

The Failure of Industry Self-regulation and the Limits of the Multi-stakeholder Process:

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