Privacy / Security

White House report on big data and privacy: Too little, too late

A review ordered by the Obama administration on big data and privacy, due this week, is expected to include warnings about data dealing’s potential for abuse and discrimination, in issues from housing to hiring.

The report was assigned in January to White House counselor John Podesta in the blowback over government surveillance and NSA data collection practices.

Podesta wouldn’t reveal details of his report to President Obama in yesterday’s preliminary interview with the Associated Press, though Podesta told AP he had newfound “concern” over how big data “could be used to target consumers and lead to discriminatory practices.”

But it may be too little, too late for millions of powerless consumers up against nonconsensual collection, use and sale of their personal information by online profiteers for decades.

As a current lawsuit illustrates, so-called “people search” website Spokeo’s data has been used for the very purposes Mr. Podesta suggests might be a “concern.” A Virginia resident is suing Spokeo alleging that the company’s collection and for-profit peddling of erroneous personal information has harmed his attempt to find a job.

In 2011, an Associated Press investigation concluded that U.S. employers spend at least $2 billion a year on data dealers to check out their scraped, notoriously flawed profiles on potential employees.

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