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TPI: Big Data Reports Don't Support Bid Data Limits

The Technology Policy Institute is suggesting that the White House's conclusions on so-called "big data" do not support the conclusions it has drawn about the need limiting collection and use of that data.

That came in response to a request by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration for comments on how recent White House reports on big data impacted privacy issues.

NTIA, along with the Federal Trade Commission, is trying to get the industry to voluntarily adopt online privacy guidelines to enforce the White House's consumer privacy bill of rights and wants to know how the White House conclusions impact that.

The Big Data report released last May and headed up by White House counselor John Podesta included recommending advancing that bill of rights.

But TPI President Thomas Lenard said in his comments that the big takeaway from the White House's Big Data inquiries is the suggestion that privacy policies should focus on uses of data that cause actual consumer harm. That, he says, raises "serious questions" about limiting data collection, use and access and other principles behind the bill of rights.

He said the White House's big data and second report on data and privacy do not show evidence of market failure or consumer harm, which he says should be the threshhold question in adopting the bill of rights or any privacy regulations.

NTIA and the White House have been pushing the creation and adherence to voluntary guidelines, but have also suggested legislation may be needed as a backstop.

Lenard says the harms invoked in the reports are speculative and hypothetical, including concerns about data brokers and the potential for data collection analysis to result in discrimination against particular groups.