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Discrimination and big data

Issue of discrimination coming up in big data policy review. The value of big data is in understanding the consumer. But with understanding comes the ability to discriminate. Not all discrimination is bad. But some may be. So that will be the next phase:

President Barack Obama requested the review in January, when he called for changes to some of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs that amass large amounts of data belonging to Americans and foreigners.

The technology that enabled those programs also enables others used in the government and the private sector. The White House separately has reviewed the NSA programs and proposed changes to rein in the massive collection of Americans’ phone records and emails.

“It was a moment to step back and say, `Does this change our basic framework or our look at the way we’re dealing with records and privacy,'” Podesta said in the interview.

“With the rapidity of the way technology changes, it’s going to be hard to imagine what it’s going to look like a generation from now. But at least we can look out over the horizon and say, `Here are the trends. What do we anticipate the likely policy issues that it raises?'”

Podesta led the review, along with some of Obama’s economic and science advisers. The goal, Podesta said, was to assess whether current laws and policies about privacy are sufficient.

Podesta would not discuss the specific recommendations he will make to Obama. He did mention an unexpected concern that emerged during White House officials’ meetings with business leaders and privacy advocates, and merits further examination: how big data could be used to target consumers and lead to discriminatory practices.

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