by Jean Marie Martini

The White House recently released its Interim Progress Report on Big Data, outlining the progress made toward changes in technology used by the government to protect consumers, improve national security and intelligence efforts, while ensuring the privacy of citizens. It also announced it has appointed DJ Patil as the country's first-ever Chief Data Scientist.  

The report's authors provided updates on five specific policy recommendations that it originally made in 2014. Among their findings:

1. Preserving Privacy Values. In order to advance the 2012 Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, the Department of Commerce obtained stakeholder and public comment about the various developments in Big Data and their impact on privacy. With this accomplished, the Administration is expected to present draft legislation shortly. Additionally, President Obama announced the Personal Data Notification and Protection Act, which strengthens the obligations of companies to notify customers about data breaches.

2. Responsible Educational Innovation in the Digital Age. Earlier this year, the President proposed the Student Digital Privacy Act to protect students from having their data being shared or used inappropriately, specifically when that data has been gathered in an educational context.

3. Big Data and Discrimination. President Obama has earmarked $17 million in his Fiscal Year 2016 budget for pilot programs to study a wide range of issues including data governance, privacy, integrity and trustworthiness. The hope is these pilots will help to develop the expertise needed to stop misuse of data and potential discrimination. 

4. Law Enforcement and Security. The Department of Justice recently reviewed its use of predictive analytical tools. The DOJ will continue to collaborate with various stakeholders to create guidelines for the use of predictive analytics by various law enforcement agencies. It will also continue to discuss the efficacy and impact of new predictive techniques. 

5. Data as a Public Resource. Federal agencies have continued to increase the quantity and quality of open data. Each quarter, more datasets are added to the Public Data Listings of federal agencies, and Data.gov has data listed from nearly every governmental agency.

This highlights just some of the progress that has been made. The report outlines all of the steps being taken to ensure that the government and the American people harness technologies like Big Data to their fullest potential, while safeguarding privacy. You can find the report in its entirety here.