“Terms like ‘big data’ should not apply exclusively to personal data (or marketing data),” said Daniel Castro, senior analyst for the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation and director of the Center for Data Innovation. “There are vast amounts of data about industrial equipment, machinery, aircraft, etc., that are exchanged between parties. I prefer the terms ‘data user’ and ‘data sharer’ to reflect these two important roles in the data economy.”
Whether that data is sold for profit or shared freely is “kind of irrelevant,” he said.
One of the benefits of big data is the promise it presents to extract something meaningful, Castro said. “Data quality can be measured on at least three metrics – accuracy, precision and confidence. So there is a lot of data about individuals that may be imprecise or only correct 80% of the time, but still has value.”
The FTC also proposed the creation of a centralized opt-out portal, but it’s unclear which entity – government, data broker, or third-party contractor – should oversee this effort.
“These portals present a security risk,” Castro said. “If policymakers are worried about privacy, they shouldn’t be demanding that data brokers put all of (a) consumer’s information on the Internet.”
Rick Erwin, president of Experian Marketing Service’s targeting division, agreed.
“We don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said. “Why not build this massive infrastructure of complex, co-mingled data? Because it’s a hacker’s dream. … What we do think is a good idea is continuing to provide consumers with easy, transparent, accessible notice and choice.”
Wang added: “I think the public trust, given what’s happened with healthcare.gov, and [the government’s] ability to protect privacy, at this point, is pretty low. The challenge for policymakers is the use cases they’re trying to build policies [around] are static when the [data] business is actually moving very fast. I think, whatever they decide data brokers [will use] should probably be applied internally, as well.”