White House looks at how 'Big Data' can discriminate

The Obama administration is preparing to release a report next week that will outline concerns that current U.S. privacy laws and regulations do not do enough to protect consumers from potential discrimination due to “big data” algorithms that crunch through information gathered online, a White House official said on Saturday.

The review, led by President Barack Obama’s senior counsellor, John Podesta, was sparked by the revelations last year of former spy contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked classified information about how the National Spy Agency uses big data analytics methods for surveillance.

Obama has moved to rein in some of the activity by U.S. intelligence agencies. But he also asked Podesta to take a 90-day look at how the private sector, medical researchers and other parts of government are innovating with big data, and whether privacy is at risk.

The challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone. Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes,” Obama said when he announced Podesta’s review in January.

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