Lawmaker pledging to dig into 'big data'

Results of the White House’s pending report on the potential perils of “big data” are already leading to extra scrutiny on the issue, and it hasn’t even been released yet.

In an interview published on Saturday, White House counselor John Podesta said that the upcoming analysis will show that the vast quantities of information could lead to discrimination.

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That’s concerning to Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), and he’s pledging to dig deeper into the issue.

“Government intrusion into our private lives continues to cause me great concern as both a citizen and a member of Congress,” he said in a statement on Sunday afternoon. “Now, we learn that data collected by the private sector could be used to discriminate against vulnerable individuals.

“I will be calling for further investigation into this urgent issue. 'Potential discrimination' is intolerable and I am concerned that this news may be just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

As soon as this week, the White House will publish the results of its 90-day analysis of the big data trend, in which companies and other organizations gather large amounts of information about people.

That data can be useful for a range of civic infrastructure, public health or commercial reasons, but might also make it easier to discriminate against people based purely on their neighborhood, race, age and other factors.

Podesta, who is leading the White House’s effort, told The Associated Press last week that he was surprised by the potential for discrimination that exists with big data.

The Obama administration’s review included a series of workshops around the country, as well as input from a broad range of outside groups.