US President’s counseller is looking into Big Data and Privacy

March 24, 2014 |

Big Data as a defined term is something of a portmanteau, something of a catchall term. The MIT technology review picked up on this in The Big Data Conundrum: How to Define It? where it identified 6 definitions of the term being:

1. Gartner. In 2001, a Meta (now Gartner) report noted the increasing size of data, the increasing rate at which it is produced and the increasing range of formats and representations employed. This report predated the term “dig data” but proposed a three-fold definition encompassing the “three Vs”: Volume, Velocity and Variety.This idea has since become popular and sometimes includes a fourth V: veracity, to cover questions of trust and uncertainty.

2. Oracle. Big data is the derivation of value from traditional relational database-driven business decision making, augmented with new sources of unstructured data.

3. Intel. Big data opportunities emerge in organizations generating a median of 300 terabytes of data a week. The most common forms of data analyzed in this way are business transactions stored in relational databases, followed by documents, e-mail, sensor data, blogs, and social media.

4. Microsoft. “Big data is the term increasingly used to describe the process of applying serious computing power—the latest in machine learning and artificial intelligence—to seriously massive and often highly complex sets of information.”

5. The Method for an Integrated Knowledge Environment open-source project. The MIKE project argues that big data is not a function of the size of a data set but its complexity. Consequently, it is the high degree of permutations and interactions within a data set that defines big data.

6. The National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST argues that big data is data which “exceed(s) the capacity or capability of current or conventional methods and systems.” In other words, the notion of “big” is relative to the current standard of computation.

The US Presidency is looking at Big Data and Privacy.  In the White House Blog Tell Us What You Think About Big Data and Privacy Jake Podesta the counseller to the US President has announced what is being done and that the review will be completed at the end of April.

The blog provides:

In January, President Obama charged me with leading a review of big data and privacy that considers how these technologies are affecting Americans’ lives and workplaces, shaping citizens’ relationship with the government and changing the way companies do business.

Since then, we have heard from industry leaders and technologists, civil society organizations and international regulators, academic researchers and privacy and civil liberties advocates about how big data is changing our society and economy. We’ve co-hosted workshops at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at New York University, and will be building on those conversations in another event at the University of California at Berkeley in early April.

We are listening to the experts, and we want to hear from you.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy already released a formal Request for Information seeking comments from the public. But we want to make it even easier for you to participate in this important process.

Go to to share your views on big data and privacy. Who do you trust with your data? What data-collection technologies give you pause? How are data and new technologies transforming your day-to-day life?

Your responses will inform our final report, which we will deliver to the President next month.

The big data privacy review ends next month. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Big data is the next big frontier for business.  It offers opportunities for predictive analytics.  More focused marketing, advertising and upselling are realities.  The other reality is increased intrusion into individual’s privacy as increasingly sophisticated alogorithms are used on massive databases to sift information, identify individuals and focus on their interests, tastes and perhaps pecadillos.  It is an issue for all privacy regulators, including in Australia.



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