Legislative Activity

White House Releases “Big Data” Report

Last Thursday, May 1, the White House released a highly-anticipated report on the collection of “big data” and its impact on privacy, public policy, and the economy. The report, requested by President Obama in the wake of public disclosures about the National Security Agency’s data collection practices, was prepared by a group of senior administration officials led by White House counselor John Podesta. Among its findings, the report, titled Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values, concluded that the “declining cost of collection, storage, and processing of data, combined with new sources of data like sensors, cameras, and geospatial technologies, mean that we live in a world of near ubiquitous data collection.” While the collection of “big data” can save lives, boost the economy, and make government work more efficiently, the report found that “big data” raises serious privacy concerns, as well as the possibility that “big data” analytics could be used to discriminate in housing, credit and employment practices. In response to these concerns, the report made the following six policy recommendations:

  • Advance the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, released by the White House in 2012, to set out clear, understandable, reasonable standards for how consumers’ personal data can be collected and used;
  • Pass national data breach legislation that provides for a single national data breach standard, along the lines of the administration’s 2011 cybersecurity legislative proposal;
  • Extend privacy protections to non-U.S. persons on the basis that privacy is a worldwide value that should be reflected in how the U.S. government handles personally identifiable information from non-U.S. citizens;
  • Ensure data collected on students in school is used for educational purposes to drive better learning outcomes while protecting students from having their data shared or used inappropriately;
  • Expand technical expertise to stop discrimination based on analysis of consumers’ online personal data profiles; and
  • Amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to ensure the standard of protection for online, digital consent is consistent with that afforded in the physical world.

Concurrently with the release of the report above, the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) also released a report titled Big Data and Privacy: A Technological Perspective, which details policy issues that lie at the intersection of “big data” and Americans’ right to privacy. The report concludes that U.S. laws that govern data collection and use are premised on a foundation that no longer applies to the size, scale, and pervasive nature of “big data” in the modern world. U.S. law governs how data is collected, as opposed to how data can be used once it is collected, and the authors suggest that policymakers should reexamine that paradigm. The report offers five recommendations to effectuate that change: U.S. data-use policy should (1) focus on the actual uses of data and less on collection and analysis; (2) focus on desired policy outcomes rather than embedding particular technological solutions in the policies; (3) enhance investment in federal research into privacy-relevant technology; (4) encourage education about privacy pitfalls and opportunities in the digital age; and (5) stimulate “privacy-protecting” technology procurement and development at the federal level.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Thursday, May 8: The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet will hold a hearing titled “Compulsory Video Licenses of Title 17.”
  • Thursday, May 8: The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law will hold an oversight hearing titled “Competition in the Video and Broadband Markets: The Proposed Merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable.”
  • Thursday, May 8: The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a markup of the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013 (S. 1720).

Regulatory Activity

FCC To Host E-rate Modernization Workshop

This Tuesday, May 6, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will host a workshop on E-rate modernization. As part of the FCC’s ongoing E-rate modernization proceeding, the workshop will provide an opportunity for educators and industry stakeholders to discuss the challenges of, and solutions for, providing high-speed broadband connectivity to and within schools and libraries. The workshop will include a panel discussion on the benefits of connecting schools and libraries to high-capacity broadband, as well as a roundtable discussion on a range of topics including (1) expanding Wi-Fi access inside schools and libraries; and (2) different approaches to providing affordable access to high-speed broadband. All five FCC commissioners are scheduled to deliver remarks.

This Week’s Events:

  • Wednesday, May 7: The Federal Trade Commission will host a seminar on the privacy ramifications of consumer-generated and controlled health data. The seminar will examine the ways consumers are increasingly managing and generating their own health data, from researching their health conditions online to uploading their information into personal health records and apps that allow them to manage and analyze their data.