Govt study examines big data implications

The US government has begun a new study to assess the current big data landscape, which should enable it to better assess the implications of the technology and draft improved legislation surrounding the topic in the future if needed. 

Officials from the administration met with industry experts and privacy advocates at a workshop organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) last week, InformationWeek reports.

Although big data analytics are becoming a mainstream solution for many businesses, the regulations surrounding it are not nearly as well developed, so the new study will seek to ask key questions that can be used to inform future policy regarding the technology. 

The project will last for 90 days and is being led by White House counselor John Podesta, who stated that now is the ideal time to examine big data analytics and other information mining techniques.

"The study is fundamentally a scoping exercise. We want to examine the administration's consumer privacy blueprint and take a harder look at existing policies," Mr Podesta stated during the workshop.
He added: "The value that can be generated from big data is not hypothetical. It's about creating new business models, innovation, and improvements in efficiency – from education to healthcare." Among the examples cited was the Cancer Genome Atlas project, which is using big data tools to help catalog and analyze genomic variations associated with cancer.

US secretary of commerce Penny Pritzker, who also spoke at the workshop, said the project will aim to start a national conversation about what big data technologies will mean, with key questions to be answered including what principles of trust businesses and governments must adopt and how new technologies can protect consumer data.

The MIT event was the first in a series of workshops to be hosted by the Office of Science and Technology Policy as part of its review into big data technology. The workshops will focus on the collection, analysis, and use of big data for privacy, the economy, and public policy, with the insight gained being used to shape a plan of action for the future of the technology.