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White House issues report on big data and privacy in this news recap

The long-awaited report from the White House on big data and privacy finally dropped. This news recap also looks at the TIBCO acquisition of Jaspersoft.

White House releases report on big data privacy

New big data and privacy regulations should focus on the use of data, which could potentially include data analytics, rather than data collection, a new report from the White House says.

The report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology is the culmination of a 90-day review process ordered by President Barack Obama. The Council was tasked with identifying areas where data collection and analysis may compromise privacy and recommend solutions.

The report, Big Data Privacy: A Technological Perspective, acknowledges that some privacy advocates have called for limitations on data collection, but says that this approach is unnecessarily restrictive and could stifle the economic and societal benefits of data analysis. Instead, the report recommends looking at uses of data as potential targets of regulations. Analytic tools can pull disparate data sources together to develop new insights about individuals, re-identify previously anonymous data sets and enable private and public agencies to draw conclusions about populations and individuals that may impinge on privacy.

While the report does not call for specific policy changes, it does say new regulations may be needed. The report highlights the fact that the burden of privacy protection currently falls mainly on consumers. Businesses only take active steps to protect privacy to the extent that doing so enhances their own reputation. Even though responsibility for privacy protection falls on individuals, they have very little control, as most businesses' privacy policies are take-it-or-leave-it. If consumers don't agree to specific terms in notice and consent forms, they can't use a particular service. New regulations may be needed to remedy this situation.

"Only in some fantasy world do users actually read these notices and understand their implications," the report says. "Notice and consent creates a non-level playing field in the implicit privacy negotiations between provider and user."

The report's authors say regulations on use of data are likely to be most effective because limiting collection, storage and retention is unfeasible. Anonymized data can be de-anonymized relatively easily today and deletion of data is impossible with so many redundant databases. Telling organizations that they cannot collect data may hinder the increasingly vibrant information economy.

Last month, SearchBusinessAnalytics conducted its own review of issues related to big data and privacy, touching on many of the issues found in this report. See the nearby sidebar to read more about the context behind the White House's big data privacy report.

TIBCO buys Jaspersoft

Read our series on big data and privacy

Learn about the gray areas in big data privacy laws

See how businesses are debating the ethics of big data

Read about the tech solutions to big data privacy

TIBCO Software Inc., announced that it is purchasing Jaspersoft, a business intelligence and data integration software provider that has been growing in popularity and may help TIBCO entice a broader range of customers.

Jaspersoft offered a range of subscription-based and open-source products, which could be low-cost. On the other hand, the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for BI and analytics faulted TIBCO for high-cost software. TIBCO has said it does not plan to change anything about the pricing model for Jaspersoft products.

In a press release, Murray Rode, chief operating officer at TIBCO, said he expects the Jaspersoft products to allow the company to attract a greater number of users, including more price-conscious organizations that may have avoided TIBCO products in the past.

This week's top Dataviz

Check out this data visualization from the Social Computing Group, a part of the MIT Media Lab, which identifies the most common medical diagnoses for patients in New York in 2012. You can also read more about the visualization's creators, the You Are Here project, which is doing a slew of visualizations to depict various aspects of life in cities.

Ed Burns is site editor of SearchBusinessAnalytics. Email him at and follow him on Twitter: @EdBurnsTT.

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