Rachel Thomas

The White House is expected to release a report on the implications of “big data” any day now. Just after the New Year, in the wake of revelations about NSA surveillance, President Obama announced that the White House would undertake a 90-day “comprehensive review of big data and privacy,” led by long-time advisor John Podesta. Though the review was borne out of concerns with government surveillance, the review has included a close look at commercial data use as well. And while the report is not yet public, the AP kicked off speculation

Privacy advocates and trade groups are clashing over how to build consumer protections into the fast-growing data broker industry as they await the results of two long-running investigations that could shape Washington’s approach to the sector. Both the Federal Trade Commission and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee launched studies of data brokers last year, seeking information about how the firms operate and do business. The reviews, which are ongoing, have targeted companies including Acxiom, Experian and Datalogix, which collect information about people from sources online and offline and sell it to other businesses

Even as it defends the National Security Agency’s controversial Internet surveillance programs, the Obama administration has been working on legislation to boost online privacy safeguards for consumers. The fact that the administration is trying to advance such a measure—amid reports that the government can access people’s online communications—speaks to growing tensions with Europe over privacy. Top European Union officials have called for tighter data rules for U.S. Internet companies, and a base-line privacy bill would strengthen the administration’s hand in negotiating with Europe

The advertising industry suffered a setback late last night when the Tracking Protection Working Group of the World Wide Web Consortium rejected the Digital Advertising Alliance's draft proposal for a universal Do Not Track standard. Instead, the 110-member group will work from another, more comprehensive, document—referred to as the June draft—that even privacy advocates believe faces insurmountable obstacles to adoption by the deadline at the end of this month. For two years, the TPWG has tied itself up in knots in trying to bring diverse interests together to agree to a universal browser-based mechanism for Internet users

When American federal lawmakers talk about going after so-called data brokers, email marketers should feel just as threatened as any traditional data compiler, according to a top legal executive with the Direct Marketing Association. The reason: The definition of “data broker” in Washington is far different from what most direct marketing professionals think of when they hear the term. “The threats to email marketers are the same and as important as those that are facing the entire data-driven marketing industry,” said Rachel Thomas, vice president, government affairs for the DMA

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