The 79-page Big Data Report delivered to President Obama last week covered much ground. The report, prepared by an administration working group led by John Podesta, was part of a 90-day big data review that the president announced in January. Now that the 90-day review has culminated with this report, it is incumbent upon all of us to prioritize how best to translate tangible and manageable portions of the report into action.
Overall, the report includes a significant discussion of the potential of large-scale data analytics to increase economic productivity and drive improved consumer and government services. The report stresses the importance of the government’s own initiatives to enable the productive use of open government data. And the report concludes with several policy recommendations, including advancing the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.
ITI’s members operate globally and we appreciate that the working group’s privacy recommendations reflect today’s reality that domestic policies have global impact, and that international considerations need to be an important factor in policy development. With that in mind, we also applaud the working group for engaging with international stakeholders during the course of its 90-day review, and urge prioritizing those recommendations that have consensus and are candidates for near-term success. By doing so, the administration and interested constituencies can build trust and momentum towards further action.
In terms of next steps, we urge the administration to immediately advance efforts to promote interoperable global privacy frameworks. In our comments on the 90-day review, ITI pointed out that barriers to cross-border data flows impede the ability to analyze large-scale data sets, and encouraged the administration to promote global interoperability among privacy frameworks. ITI also urged that mechanisms that facilitate cross-border data flows be supported, such as the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework.
Engaging with our international partners to advance global interoperability is of paramount importance. There is broad consensus on the need to build bridges among different privacy frameworks because as the report pointed out, this is “critical to ensuring robust international commerce.” A wide range of stakeholders, including the technology sector, is committed to this work. The potential gains are significant.
There is also significant upside to pressing ahead with legislative action in two key areas identified in the report: federal data breach legislation and reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). ITI is encouraged by the working group’s call for Congress to act in these areas that would address the security and privacy of consumer information.
ITI has long advocated for federal data breach notification legislation that would preempt the current patchwork framework of state laws with a uniform national standard. ITI has also called for ECPA reform, which is an absolute necessity to address concerns about law enforcement access to online information. ITI will continue to advocate that this statute be updated to require law enforcement to obtain a warrant, without carve outs, to gain access to online content.
Throughout the report, the working group stressed the importance of collaborating with stakeholders in connection with its policy recommendations. We look forward to continuing to engage with the administration and other stakeholders on these important issues, and prioritizing the next steps to ensure that big data continues to translate into big benefits for people in the U.S. and around the world.
 A second report, “Big Data and Privacy: A Technological Perspective,” authored by the president’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), was also delivered to the president last week. The PCAST report takes a deep dive into the current state of the technology in connection with privacy and big data.