White House Big Data Report: 5 Privacy Takeaways - InformationWeek

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White House Big Data Report: 5 Privacy Takeaways

Big data raises serious privacy concerns that need to be addressed, sooner rather than later, report says.

3. "Small" data poses a bigger privacy threat.
Despite all the talk about big data's potential for personal infringement, the most common privacy risks today involve "small data," such as when hackers target personal banking information to commit financial fraud. "These risks do not involve especially large volumes, rapid velocities, or great varieties of information, nor do they implicate the kind of sophisticated analytics associated with big data," says the report.

Protection of small data already has been addressed by US privacy laws, "robust" enforcement, and global privacy mechanisms, the report claims. Although that might be true, the recent Target security breech and Heartbleed bug show there's plenty of room for improvement in this area.

4. Predictive medicine could lead to privacy pandemonium.
One promising big data application is predictive medicine, which delves deeply into patients' health and genetic information to predict if they'll develop a particular disease, and how well they'll respond to specific therapies. The potential for abuse here is huge. For instance, health information collected via predictive medicine might be applied to decisions involving people with similar genes, such as a patient's children.

"The privacy frameworks that currently cover information now used in health may not be well suited to address these developments or facilitate the research that drives them," the report states.

5. Conversely, privacy laws hinder some important analytics.  
"Big data analytics enable data scientists to amass lots of data, including unstructured data, and find anomalies and patterns," the report says. "A key privacy challenge in this model of discovery is that in order to find the needle, you have to have a haystack. To obtain certain insights, you need a certain quantity of data."

Hence the problem: Researchers can benefit from access to larger data sets of sensitive genetic information, but privacy laws limit their access to this data. A genetic researcher at the Broad Institute, for instance, was not able to detect a genetic variant related to schizophrenia with 3,500 genetic datasets, but achieved "statistically significant" results with 35,000 cases, the report says.

You can use distributed databases without putting your company's crown jewels at risk. Here's how. Also in the Data Scatter issue of InformationWeek: A wild-card team member with a different skill set can help provide an outside perspective that might turn big data into business innovation. (Free registration required.)

Jeff Bertolucci is a technology journalist in Los Angeles who writes mostly for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, The Saturday Evening Post, and InformationWeek. View Full Bio

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User Rank: Author
5/8/2014 | 7:55:40 PM
Re: Meh... On the other hand...
Doug, you're right. This report really did little more than reiterate what's already been said of data privacy -- and did very little in addressing the continued open season marketers have on capturing and exploiting consumer data.

User Rank: Moderator
5/5/2014 | 1:36:26 PM
Reality of Data Seling not discussed
The data selling epidemic we have in the US was not discussed in the report, sad but what we have with the bliss out there and by the time they come around to what's really going on and the core of a lot of the issues they discussed, we are even more "screwed" if you will as bots don't have time for the current methodologies used in government.  Bots are there to make money as well as the people that create the algorihtms that run them.


Almost everything in the report is nothing new so I'm not sure what they thought they really did?  Are you?  So we have a report, I still think ALL data sellers need to be licensed as the scoring of America keeps growing the analytics used for or against consumers and it's a mad house with quantitated justifications for things that are just not true wiht high non linear error factors in the formulas.  Videos at the link below will bring you up to date as well as show you the automation that is out there to create such reports if people us it, scary, news uses bots to write data news if you not seen it. 



D. Henschen
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
5/5/2014 | 1:34:29 PM
Meh... On the other hand...
Big opportunities... and big worries. Seems like an inconclusive report that just invites more study. Point 3 seems off track -- why is "small data" relevant in a "big data" report. Were you expecting a White House report to come out with a clear and decisive opinion?

You know the nutrition labels required by the FDA on the sides of packaged food products -- calories, fat, etc. We need the FTC to have the authority to put simple, clear use-of-data labels on software, mobile/tablet apps, and Web sites. People need to know what they're giving up without reams of mice type and legal lingo. Make it clear and let the people decide! As it is the use of data is industry self regulated and the FTC has no abilty to require anything -- it only investigates the worst abuses it can find.
User Rank: Author
5/5/2014 | 10:38:20 AM
Big data privacy
Numbers 4 and 5 here are the ones that make many patients especially nervous. Research is important, but the ethical rules on what insurers can and will do with this mined data en masse haven't been written yet.
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