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CIOs should push big data projects but prioritise privacy

Thor Olavsrud | June 3, 2014
In its recent report on big data and privacy, the White House again pushed for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights that could adversely affect some big data initiatives. Experts say CIOs should continue to push their organisations to leverage big data analytics, but they must also make consumer privacy a priority.


Last month, the White House released its 90-day review of big data and privacy, renewing the call for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights along with a number of other policy recommendations.

With the administration and legislators (and regulatory bodies like the Federal Trade Commission) now considering issues of data collection and privacy, how should CIOs advise their organizations about going forward with big data initiatives?

"My advice is people should move very, very aggressively into this area of big data," says Lanny Cohen, global CTO of technology consulting firm Capgemini. "I think, at the end of the day, this is going to become one of the biggest sources of competitive advantage that an enterprise can have. Those enterprises that really have, as a core competency, the ability to gather data, analyze it and act on it are going to have a major advantage."

That said, Cohen says CIOs have an obligation to educate themselves and their organizations about the risks and responsibilities associated with gathering and using data.

"I think the CIO is already kind of taking on more of a role of a risk broker and risk orchestrator in the enterprise," Cohen says. "I think this is a perfect example of how a role like that arises in a topic like big data."

In January, President Barack Obama called upon John Podesta, counselor to the President and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, to conduct a 90-day study to examine how big data will transform the way Americans live and work, and how big data will alter the relationships between government, citizens, businesses and consumers.

Together with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy John Holdren and Director of the National Economic Council Jeffrey Zients, Podesta and the Executive Office of the President released its findings, Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values, in May.

"Big data technologies will be transformative in every sphere of life," the group wrote in the report's foreword. "The knowledge discovery they make possible raises considerable questions about how our framework for privacy protection applies in a big data ecosystem. Big data also raises other concerns. A significant finding of this report is that big data analytics have the potential to eclipse longstanding civil rights protections in how personal information is used in housing, credit, employment, health, education and the marketplace. Americans' relationship with data should expand, not diminish, their opportunities and potential."

Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights: Give Consumers Control of Their Data
One of the major policy recommendations put forward in the report is the advancement of the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, first proposed as part of a "privacy blueprint" in a February 2012 White House report, Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy.


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