White House Calling for Transparency on Data Brokers

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The White House has turned its attention from the data collection of their own intelligence agency and is now calling for transparency on data broker firms about their data harvesting.

Corporations such as Google and Facebook make a living collecting personal information about their users and priming them to become more targetable. In short, Google and Facebook make a living off collection of your data and selling it back to you. Data brokers collect and store personal information which is a huge privacy concern along with making the firms more susceptible to cyber attacks and cyber criminals.

A report as of yesterday, Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values, evaluated and applied six new recommendations about transparency for data brokers. Of the six include the passing of national data breach legislation along with modifying the Electronic Communications Privacy Act fitting it to modern day technology.

“Consumers deserve more transparency about how their data is shared beyond the entities with which they do business directly, including ‘third-party’ data collectors,” the report reads. “This means ensuring that consumers are meaningfully aware of the spectrum of information collection and reuse as the number of firms that are involved in mediating their consumer experience or collecting information from them multiplies.”

John Podesta, the author of the report, known as the counselor to President Obama along with other Washington officials, also recommended advancing the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, making sure consumers are aware of how their data is collected as they move about the internet.

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“The data services industry should follow the lead of the online advertising and credit industries and build a common website or online portal that lists companies, describes their data practices, and provides methods for consumers to better control how their information is collected and used or to opt-out of certain marketing uses,” the report again reads.

Podesta told the New York Times that he briefed President Obama with the policies, who was surprised to find that the same technologies used by intelligence agencies is also used in the private sector.

The report also stated that the call to transparency for data brokers would help mitigate privacy concerns but also drive away the potential for discrimination.

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“Fueled by greater access to data and powerful analytics, there are now a host of products that ‘score’ individuals beyond the scope of traditional credit scores, which are regulated by law.110 These products attempt to statistically characterize everything from a consumer’s ability to pay to whether, on the basis of their social media posts, they are a ‘social influencer’ or ‘socially influenced’” the algorithmic and scoring portion of the report stated.

The paper also states that the fear is that the scores can unfairly sway opportunities for housing or employment. Showing and learning how the algorithms work behind the scoring could help dissipate any problems.

“Details on what types of data are included in these scores and the algorithms used for assigning attributes to an individual are held closely by companies and largely invisible to consumers,” the paper said. “That means there is often no meaningful avenue for either identifying harms or hold-ing any entity in the decision-making chain accountable.”

The real questions behind the White House calling for transparency from data brokers is why? Do intelligence agencies want to know the algorithms behind data harvesters to collect more data? Why isn’t the NSA or other data harvesting intelligence agencies inputting any form of data or knowledge into these programs?

About Author

Brandon Stosh is the founder and CEO of www.freedomhacker.net. Stosh is a cyber security researcher and professional consultant who strives to provide reliable news on cyber-security based topics.

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