White House Releases Privacy Research Plan; Not Everyone Pleased

The White House has released its long-awaited National Privacy Research Strategy (NPRS) with a focus on multidisciplinary research and privacy design methods.

“This research aims to produce new knowledge and techniques that identify and mitigate emerging risks to privacy,” the report says. But at least one group isn’t impressed.

“The purpose of this strategy is to help society realize the benefits of information technologies while minimizing their negative societal impact.”

The National Privacy Research Strategy follows a similar 2014 report on big data in which the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology called for coordinating privacy research as a way to increase federal investment.

The National Privacy Research Strategy is the product of research agencies across the government and private industry, and it articulates a number of privacy research priorities:

  • fostering multidisciplinary research;
  • understanding privacy desires and impact;
  • developing privacy by design methods;
  • increasing transparency of collection, sharing, use and retention;
  • assuring information flows are consistent with privacy rules
  • developing approaches for remediation and recovery; and
  • reducing privacy risks of analytical algorithms.

“The priorities provide a strategy; federal agencies will be responsible for making tactical decisions about how to structure, fund, and execute specific research programs based on their missions and capabilities, so that the overall research portfolio is consistent with this strategy,” the report says.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) issued a statement criticizing the White House plan for focusing on the privacy desires of users “rather than the extent of the problem or goals to safeguard privacy, such as coding Fair Information Practices, developing genuine Privacy Enhancing Techniques, or complying with Privacy Act obligations.”

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By George R. Lynch

White House