Big Brother Would Like To Warn You About Big Brother, Inc.

Philip Bump | The Wire | May 2, 2014

We will summarize this lengthy new report from the White House as such: Yes, yes, the NSA. But you need to worry about the private sector collecting your data, too.

One of the earliest and most frequent arguments used by President Obama in the debate over government surveillance has been a variant of that: you willingly hand over much more information to Facebook and to advertisers than the government collects on American citizens. And that's true, but, in the words of Edward Snowden, Facebook lacks the ability to put "warheads on foreheads," meaning that the ramifications of Facebook's data collection are somewhat different.

The new report, titled "Big Data: Seizing opportunities, preserving values," tries to flesh out what those private-sector ramifications might be. Pointedly, as The New York Times notes in its coverage. The report is the White House "hoping to move the national debate over privacy beyond the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities to the practices of companies like Google and Facebook," as the paper puts it.

To that end, the report offers six policy proposals, including a consumer bill-of-rights, a law mandating that companies report data breaches, and limits on data collected from students. It also suggests new protections against one of the most subtle threats inherent in massive storehouses of data: the ability to subtly discriminate...