On Tuesday, I posted about a conference call of the President’s Council of Advisers for Science and Technology (PCAST), a call that took place yesterday. During that call PCAST heard from the leads of its working group on a big data report, and the Council approved the report pending final edits. In those situations, reports have followed relatively quickly, typically within a month.
Earlier today PCAST released the report. It made me wonder how any concerns or serious questions raised in the conference call might have been handled. Had the Council simply approved the report during its April 4 meeting, releasing it today would not have seemed odd.
Titled Big Data: A Technological Perspective, the report comes in the shadow of the big data report released by the working group assembled by John Podesta to coordinate the big data review for the administration. There are five main recommendations in the PCAST report:
- Policy attention should focus more on the actual uses of big data and less on its collection and analysis.
- Policies and regulation, at all levels of government, should not embed particular technological solutions, but rather should be stated in terms of intended outcomes
- With coordination and encouragement from OSTP, the NITRD (Networking and Information Technology Research and Development) agencies should strengthen U.S. research in privacy‐related technologies and in the relevant areas of social science that inform the successful application of those technologies
- OSTP, together with the appropriate educational institutions and professional societies, should encourage increased education and training opportunities concerning privacy protection, including career paths for professionals
- The United States should take the lead both in the international arena and at home by adopting policies that stimulate the use of practical privacy‐protecting technologies that exist today. It can exhibit leadership both by its convening power (for instance, by promoting the creation and adoption of standards) and also by its own procurement practices (such as its own use of privacy‐preserving cloud services)
Comparing this big data report to the administration’s report released today requires an additional post. However, this topic runs smack into my day job, and such a post will likely show up on the blog I post to for work. Suffice it to say that the PCAST perspective has a narrow, more technical focus than the administration’s report, though both are concerned with addressing the possible benefits and areas for abuse with the growth of large data sets that are more easily collected and analyzed.