White House to talk 'big data' with privacy groups

Privacy and civil liberties groups will meet with White House staff on Monday afternoon to discuss the administration’s review of “big data.”

Attendees will include ACLU Legislative counsel Chris Calabrese, Nuala O’Connor, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, according to people familiar with the meeting.


President Obama called for the review group as part of his plan to change government surveillance. The review will be led by John Podesta, who is counselor to Obama, and will examine the private- and public-sector uses of data analytics.

In the coming months, the group conducting the review — which includes the secretaries of Commerce and Energy, Penny PritzkerPenny Sue PritzkerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday Biden's new campaign ad features Obama speech praising him Obama Commerce secretary backs Biden's 2020 bid MORE and Ernest Moniz, and members of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology — will examine the privacy implications of big data, Podesta wrote in a White House blog post last month.

“We are undergoing a revolution in the way that information about our purchases, our conversations, our social networks, our movements, and even our physical identities are collected, stored, analyzed and used. The immense volume, diversity and potential value of data will have profound implications for privacy, the economy, and public policy.”

The group will issue a report that “will help identify technological changes to watch, whether those technological changes are addressed by the U.S.’s current policy framework and highlight where further government action, funding, research and consideration may be required,” Podesta wrote.

According to a White House spokesman, Monday’s meeting “is one of a number that will inform our report to the President over the next two-plus months” as the review group attempts “to engage outside perspectives — including the public at large — in this dialogue.”

To coincide with the meeting, privacy groups — led by Rotenberg's group — asked the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to solicit public comments on the big data review.

"The public should be given the opportunity to contribute to the OSTP’s review of 'Big Data and the Future of Privacy' since it is their information that is being collected and their privacy and their future that is at stake," wrote 25 privacy groups in a letter to OSTP Director John Holdren.

— Justin Sink contributed.