Governments can harness the power of data to advance national goals while protecting privacy

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SIIA submitted comments yesterday  in response to the White House’s request for information on how the government can best protect citizens’ privacy in the age of big data analysis. We concur with the goals of President’s Obama’s Big Data Initiative to harness the power of data to advance national goals such as economic growth, education, health, and clean energy; use competitions and challenges; and foster regional innovation. Technologists, privacy advocates and policymakers can work together to foster the societal, governmental and business opportunities provided by data-driven innovation, while also meeting the challenge of protecting privacy.

SIIA’s overarching recommendation for policymakers is to proceed cautiously when considering new data policies, as these are likely to steer the future of data-driven innovation and the scope of what is possible for American innovation for decades to come. Policies that seek to curb the use of data could stifle this nascent technological and economic revolution before it can truly take hold. SIIA therefore urges you to avoid support for broad policies that will dramatically curb data collection and analysis.

Other key points contained in SIIA’s big data comments include:

• The vast majority of big data is not personal or sensitive data, and the vast majority of new insights generated from big data analysis do not rely on personal information.

• Uninhibited cross-border, or cross-jurisdictional, data flows is perhaps the single greatest need for innovative U.S. companies to continue growing around the world.

• Big Data policies need to promote technology neutrality and avoid technology mandates, recognizing there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

• It is necessary to think creatively about any new policy regime governing privacy in the “era of big data,” one which increases risk assessment and appropriate data uses by entities—this review should also consider how existing laws have in many ways continued to function effectively and provide a significant degree of protection.

• Governments should continue to embrace open data policies and public-private partnerships that maximize access to critical public data.

Read our full comments, and our 2013 white paper explaining how this innovation presents tremendous economic and social value, capable of transforming the way we work, communicate, learn and live our lives.

David David LeDuc is Senior Director, Public Policy at SIIA. He focuses on e-commerce, privacy, cyber security, cloud computing, open standards, e-government and information policy. Follow the SIIA public policy team on Twitter at @SIIAPolicy.