Rights groups call on White House to open privacy review

A coalition of 25 rights groups is calling for a 90-day US government review of big data and the future of privacy to be opened up to the public

A coalition of 25 consumer, civil liberties and privacy groups is calling for US President Barack Obama’s review of big data and the future of privacy to be opened up to the public.

On 17 January, Obama announced that he had instructed John Podesta to carry out a 90-day review into big data and privacy.

The review is to look at the challenges posed by big data as gathered by both government bodies such as the NSA and by private firms such as Facebook and Google.

The Podesta review is distinct from an earlier panel of security experts asked by Obama to advise him on intelligence gathering in the light of surveillance disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In an open letter to John Holdren, director of the White House office of science and technology policy, the coalition calls for public participation in the review.

The coalition's letter urges the government to issue a request for information "to conduct a review that incorporates the concerns and opinions of those whose data may be collected in bulk as a result of their engagement with technology".

Read more about post-Snowden initiatives

  • Trusted IT scheme aims to restore confidence after Snowden
  • Technology firms appeal to Obama over Prism scandal
  • US telecoms companies say proposed NSA reforms fall short
  • US publishes revealing review on NSA surveillance

The public should be given the opportunity to contribute to the review, "since it is their information that is being collected and their privacy that is at stake. We urge you to begin the public comment as soon as possible,” the letter concludes.

The coalition of groups includes the Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (Epic).

Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy told the Guardian he believes the review is one of the most positive responses so far to the Snowden leaks.

“Government and corporations are collecting a mass of information that is being used in a completely un-transparent manner. The review is an example of the positive impact that the Snowden revelations have had on US administration thinking,” he said.

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