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Is the first of Obama's Big Data Privacy bills about to make it through Congress?

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

09 February 2015

In a rare piece of good news in the privacy world, last week it became apparent that President Obama is receiving bipartisan support for his first Big Data Privacy bill.

The bill, which is the first to attempt to protect the data of citizens on a large-scale basis, may be treading safe ground but it’s still incredibly encouraging to see it receive support in the Republican-controlled congress. The bill aims to protect the information of students who use educational apps, ensuring that the data farmed from such apps is only used for genuine research and educational purposes, and is the first in a series of planned bills which, as yet, has failed to gain traction.

Of course, it’s hard to see on what grounds someone could oppose a move to protect the information of children and young people; to do so could be an incredibly bad political move. However, the high-profile hacking of credit card data at companies like Target means that Big Data is now a hot topic nationwide, and more citizens are aware of just how unsecured their information is.

All this might just signal that it’s time to get hopeful about the future of privacy. A year ago, the President responded to post-Snowden privacy concerns by assigning adviser John Podesta to brainstorm the situation. This bill, and the ones that will hopefully come after it, are the results of that year of work.

Though it might be too early to call, a success for this bill may pave the way for Obama’s other privacy bills; among them, an update to the outdated Electronic Privacy Communications Act, as well as a requirement that companies inform customers about a security breach within 30 days of the breach itself. These may be baby steps, but they are all steps in the right direction.

Privacy advocates, watch this space.

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