White House, MIT in data privacy workshop

February 25, 2014

Michael B. Farrell

It might shock anyone familiar with the National Security Agency spying scandal, but the White House says it is worried about your privacy on the Web. Enough that some of the Obama administration's top officials will come to Cambridge next week to be schooled on safeguarding personal privacy — regardless of who is collecting it.

The administration selected the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to help it understand the privacy implications of big data, in which computers — deep inside the NSA or in the offices of Amazon.com Inc. — analyze massive collections of personal information to either uncover potential terror threats or figure out shopping habits.

On Monday, the Cambridge center of computing brain power will host the first in a series of nationwide public workshops about privacy and data the Obama administration has scheduled as it rethinks privacy policies since the NSA surveillance practices became public last year.

The MIT program, dubbed “Big Data and Privacy: Advancing the State of the Art in Technology and Practice,” is not about the legality of the NSA surveillance program. It will take a much broader look at all the growing privacy issues around data analysis and collection, and what new techniques can be used to better safeguard personal information.