The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) will meet via conference call tomorrow (Wednesday), April 30, from 11 to 11:30 a.m. Eastern time. According to the agenda, the meeting will focus on the PCAST report about big data and privacy, which was also a topic of discussion at the April 4 PCAST meeting (not presently available in the meetings archive, but the webcast is online). In that meeting the PCAST working group was still developing the report. But it is expected that the larger big data group conducting its review will have a report soon, so PCAST may have worked quite hard this month to get things ready.
We’ll know more after tomorrow’s call. If the report is not ready, the next PCAST in-person meeting is scheduled for May 9. As this effort was given a timetable of 90 days since mid-January, there will be pressure to have things released soon.
This report will be part of a collection of products coming from the Administration’s Big Data Review, each reflecting a different perspective on how to engage with large sets of data and how that might affect individual privacy. For instance, PCAST, with its focus on science and technology, will likely approach research on big data differently that the Council of Economic Advisers or the Department of Commerce, which are also part of the administration’s review. Student learning was a topic of discussion when the working group presented at the April 4 meeting, something I don’t think was high on the list for the other groups.
I’m highly skeptical that the pending reports will signal the end for the Administration on the matter of big data. I won’t be able to make informed speculation until the reports come out, but John Podesta indicated when announcing the review that he anticipates his group’s report would serve as “the foundation for a robust and forward-looking plan of action.” Then we can try and guess what the Administration might do to implement such a plan.