The White House is studying how the growth of “big data” will affect online privacy. Every day, Americans create data points about themselves that are increasingly being collected, analyzed and used by private and public actors alike. These data points can be reveal relationships or personal information from shopping choices to health-care information, but are also used to commercialize services and perform research. But some civil liberties advocates worry that the initiative is an attempt to shift focus away from the National Security Agency’s controversial spying programs.
“It’s an important issue to study,” says Cato Institute Research Fellow Julian Sanchez, “but given the odd timing, I think it read to many folks as — take your pick — a distraction, a bone to privacy advocates, or a shot across the bow of tech companies that have been pushing back on NSA.” Sanchez’s skepticism about the timing was echoed by other privacy advocates who talked to the Switch.