But too often, the court didn't question the NSA when the agency told judges it needed to engage in mass collection of data for technical reasons, Cunningham added. He called on Congress to allow the surveillance court to hire technology experts to check the NSA's claims.
The ACLU's Stanley called for independent oversight of the surveillance process, with other panelists calling for more disclosure from the NSA about the reasons for collecting data and the effectiveness of the surveillance programs in preventing terrorism.
While many speakers at the conference raised privacy concerns related to the use of big data, not everyone agreed that there were major privacy problems. During a panel about commercial uses of big data, many speakers seemed to project their critiques of capitalism into the debate, said Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, a free market think tank.
When panelists suggested some consumers may be coerced into making choices based on their shopping preferences being shared online, Szoka suggested that most people aren't as easily manipulated as some big data critics might suggest.
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