PhotoThe good news is that the White House is starting to acknowledge that there may indeed be disturbing privacy and even civil-liberty implications to having all Americans' data indiscriminately sucked up and analyzed without their consent.

The bad news is that so far, this acknowledgment only stems toward private businesses' collection of this data; NSA performing warrantless searches of Americans' calls and emails is still apparently just fine.

Politico reports that the White House recently ended a three-month “big data review” and reached a conclusion which should surprise nobody. According to the White House study:

“An important conclusion of this study is that big data technologies can cause societal harms beyond damages to privacy, such as discrimination against individuals and groups …. Just as neighborhoods can serve as a proxy for racial or ethnic identity, there are new worries that big data technologies could be used to ‘digitally redefine’ unwanted groups, either as customers, employees, tenants or recipients of credit. A significant finding of this report is that big data could enable new forms of discrimination and predatory practices.”

Arguably, such forms of predatory or discriminatory practices already take place, such as “price optimization” in the insurance industry – charging higher auto or home insurance premiums to certain (usually low-income) customers not because they represent a higher risk, but simply because they don't realize they're being overcharged.

The question of just who owns or controls your personal data anyway does indeed need to be asked. Consider: given the current law (or lack thereof) there is nothing, literally nothing, an ordinary American could have done to, for example, guarantee that their data would not be included on the database which Experian made available to a ring of Vietnamese identity thieves.

If you hold a job, pay taxes, enjoy legal-licensed-driver status or have passed any of the traditional American adult-financial milestones, your data is out of your hands. Have a nice day.

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