Last January, recognizing that innovative big data technologies and tools are changing our economy, our government, and our society, President Obama charged me with leading a 90-day review of big data and privacy. Our working group found that we live in a world of near-ubiquitous data collection in which that data is being crunched at speeds increasingly approaching real time — a data revolution that presents incredible opportunities to transform health care, to boost economic productivity, and to make government work better and save taxpayer dollars.
At the same time, big data technologies raise serious concerns about how we protect personal privacy and our other values. As more data is collected, analyzed, and stored on both public and private systems, we must be vigilant in ensuring the balance of power is retained between government and citizens and between businesses and consumers. And one novel finding of the working group report was the potential for big data technologies to circumvent longstanding civil rights protections and enable new forms of discrimination in housing, employment, and access to credit, among other areas.
Today, we’re releasing an interim progress report detailing the progress we have made — and what we still have ahead. We’re also moving forward with the commitment the President made last month to ensure that student educational data is used only for educational purposes. The Administration has been working with a bipartisan group of legislators, and today Congressman Luke Messer (R-ID) and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) will announce that they will be introducing legislation to fulfill that promise. And the Council of Economic Advisers is releasing a new report on price discrimination in the big-data era, as part of the Administration’s commitment to deeply examine how these new technologies may inadvertently or deliberately lead to discriminatory outcomes, and what policy mechanisms may be needed to respond.