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White House Big Data Study Raises Concern

29 Jan, 2014 By: Doug McPherson

WASHINGTON – The White House’s appointment of presidential working group to study how data collection and analysis is affecting privacy is raising concern among marketers.

Specifically, some business leaders are taking exception to President Barack Obama’s comparison of digital ad tracking to the National Security Agency's (NSA) domestic and foreign surveillance activities.

In a speech earlier this month on proposed changes to the government's spying program, Obama linked the NSA actions to marketing’s digital ad tracking.

In the speech, the president said:

  • "There was a recognition … that the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone. Corporations … track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes; that’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer or smartphone. But all of us understand that the standards for government surveillance must be higher.”

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) responded almost immediately in a blog post:

  • "DMA was disappointed to see the responsible use of consumer data for marketing purposes conflated with 'government surveillance.' As revelations regarding NSA practices have come to light in recent months, DMA has been working hard to make it clear to policymakers and the media that issues around government surveillance are not related to data-driven marketing."

The working group, headed by John Podesta, a counselor to the president, will seek to find areas where industry and government need to implement new policies that rein in technology and the business of collecting lots of data, according to MediaPost News.

In a statement, Podesta wrote:

  • "We are undergoing a revolution in the way that information about our purchases, our conversations, our social networks, our movements, and even our physical identities are collected, stored, analyzed and used. The immense volume, diversity and potential value of data will have profound implications for privacy, the economy, and public policy. The working group will consider all those issues, and specifically how the present and future state of these technologies might motivate changes in our policies across a range of sectors."

The group will issue a report on its findings within 90 days.

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