White House Calls for Stronger Privacy Laws

     (CN) - Warning that big-data collection may chill free speech, a new White House report urges Congress to pass new privacy measures that will strengthen email protections and monitor potentially discriminatory practices.
     At the request of President Barack Obama, his counselor John Podesta led a 90-day review of big data and its impact on the privacy of citizens.
     The report released Thursday urges the president to advance the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, pass a national data breach standard, and amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to strengthen email privacy.
     It also recommends better protections for student data to ensure such information is used only for educational purposes, and says the government should extend privacy protections to non-U.S. citizens "because privacy is a worldwide value."
     The report notes the important discoveries and innovations spurred by big-data collection, especially in health care, and business. Data analysis also greatly assists the government discover taxpayer fraud, according to the report.
     But data collection can also "raise challenging questions about how best to protect privacy and other values in a world where data collection will be increasingly ubiquitous, multidimensional, and permanent," Podesta wrote.
     Government uses of big data "have the potential to chill the exercise of free speech or free association," the report states.
     Even from anonymized data can also reveal very personal information, and may be used to systematically disadvantage certain groups if used in a discriminatory way, according to the report.
     "We must prevent new modes of discrimination that some uses of big data may enable, particularly with regard to longstanding civil rights protections in housing, employment, and credit," Podesta wrote.
     Along with Podesta, the advisory group included Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, the president's science adviser John Holdren and the president's economic advisor Jeff Zients.