At MIT, weighing balance of privacy and big data

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 3, 2014 at 7:47 pm •  Published: March 3, 2014

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Government, business and academic leaders gathered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Monday to discuss whether new policies are needed to regulate the use of big data, the large and complex sets of electronic information being used by companies to market products, researchers to study health problems, and as a government surveillance tool.

White House counselor John Podesta, who was appointed by President Barack Obama during a January speech about the NSA scandal to review big data collection and privacy concerns, said there is an overwhelming amount of personal information openly available online.

"We are undergoing a revolution in the way that information about our purchases, our conversations, our social networks, our movements, and even our physical identities are collected, stored, analyzed and used," Podesta said by phone. He called into the conference after his travel plans were interrupted by the snow storm in Washington.

Podesta said the government must figure out how to allow the public and private sector to capitalize on the benefits of big data, while protecting individual privacy. Monday's event at MIT was the first of three being held across the country before a final report is delivered to Obama.

Sam Madden, an MIT professor, said that the government should regulate what companies can do with the data they collect from customers. "The big question is defining what is and isn't OK," Madden said.

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