White House/MIT Big Data Privacy Workshop Recap

White House/MIT Big Data Privacy Workshop Recap

Speaking for everyone snowed-in in DC, White House Counselor John Podesta remarked that “big snow trumped big data,” while on the phone to open the first of the Obama Administration’s three big data and privacy workshops.  This first workshop focused on advancing the “start of the art” in technology and practice.  While these workshops are ultimately the product of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks last year, Mr. Podesta explained that his big data review group was conducting a broad review on a “somewhat separate track” from an ongoing review of the intelligence community. His remarks focused on several specific example of the social value of data, but he cautioned that “we need to be conscious of the implications for individuals. How should we think about individuals’ sense of their identity when data reveals things they didn’t even know about themselves?”

To that end, he noted that “we can’t wait to get privacy perfect to get going,” and noting this workshop was designed to talk about technology around data, he hoped the workshop would help inform the Administration about what it needs to take away about the state of data privacy right now.

Cynthia Dwork, from Microsoft Research, followed Mr. Podesta with a deep-dive into differential privacy. In English, as she put IT, differential privacy works to ensure that the outcome of any analysis is equally likely, independent of whether an individual join or does not join a database. The goal is to limit the range of potential harms to any individual from participating in data analysis. The challenge posed by big data is that multiple uses of data create a cumulatively harm to privacy, which is difficult to measure. Overly accurate estimates of too much information are “blatantly non-private,” Dwork argued.

While Dwork focused on new technologies to advance privacy, a slate of MIT professors presented brief examples of how big data is providing big social benefits in health care, transportation, and education:

  • John Guttag discussed the importance of large scale data for clinical studies. He pushed back against requiring very specific consents for patient data use, suggesting they would do a lot of harm. ‘We find a lot of data for one purpose that can be used for another. It’s important not to be too specific.”  He suggested meaningful consent could be gained simply be educating patients about the value of their data. “I think we underestimate the members of our society,” he said. “I think most people fear death or the death of a loved one more than a loss of privacy.” Manolis Kellis explored how large numbers of data sets are essential to advance discoveries in human disease genomics. He argued that much of our discussion is caught up by the mere illusion of privacy: “Every time you take your coat off, you’re providing your DNA to someone.” Thus, we need to implement restrictions that would mitigate negative uses, such as insurers using genomic data to discriminate against individuals.
  • Sam Madden connected the challenges posed by big data to the parallel phenomenon of the Internet of Things.  He noted that societal apps and societal applications of data both have privacy concerns, and argued that very compelling societal goods come from “societal roll-ups of data.” For example, he discussed how risky driver behavior could be mitigated through surveillance — the riskiest category of male drivers will reduce bad driving habits by up to 72% if monitored.  “We can argue that this is creepy, but it’s societally compelling.” he said. “We — as a society — have to decide what we’re comfortable with.
  • Anant Agarwal, president of edX, the massively open online course (MOOC) platform created by Harvard and MIT, described big data as a “particle accelerator” for learning. Noting that edX has students in every country in the world, MOOCs can provide interesting insights into how students learn and how they interact with peers.  He described data that showed how students over time began tackling homework prior to lectures, and suggested that data could eliminate subjective guesswork in education. The challenge is that a lot of the data benefits from education can only be derived through information sharing, yet adequately protecting individual student information can be challenging.  Mr. Agarwal noted that his daughter used the same username on edX as she does on Facebook. “We can omit that information,” but students use also identifiers in forums and in other formats, he said. “We’d like to share the data we get with everyone,” he said, but he wondered how that could be done safely. “What is de-identification?” he asked.

When the floor was opened for questions, a skeptic in the crowd noted that one of the biggest drivers of data collection is not social benefits, but rather to make money. Mr. Agarwal suggested that was the very reason edX was a non-profit was in order for its use of sensitive data “to be judged by different criteria than maximizing return on investment.”

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker suggested that harnessing the potential of data would  hinge upon user trust. Highlighting Commerce’s efforts to advance multistakeholder codes of conduct and ensure the efficacy of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor, Ms. Pritzker suggested government needed to continually evaluate and work with companies to uncover the technologies and practices that promote trust. She expressed hope that efforts like the day’s workshop could help to show that confidence placed in American companies should remain “rock solid.”

The program’s afternoon shifted to a broad discussion of privacy enhancing technologies (PETs), specifically developments in differential privacy, encryption, and accountability systems. There was a recognition that with any computer system that compromises in security and privacy are inevitable — complex software will have bugs, many different people will need access to infrastructure, and interesting data processing will require the use of confidential information or PII.

Danny Weitzner lamented a better definition of privacy for computer designers and engineers to build toward. Alan Westin’s original definition, that privacy is a claim by an individual, groups, or institutions to determine for themselves when, how, and to what extent their information can be communicated to others, has “led us astray,” Prof. Weitzner argued. He argued that throughout the day multiple substantive definitions of privacy had come up in discussion, and he argued that we “need a way to know what’s going on” in order to “allow data for some purposes, but won’t be misused for others.”

Quoting Judge Reggie B. Walton about the challenges facing the FISA Court, Weitzner noted that “we don’t currently have the tools in everyday systems to assess how information is used.” Weitzner discussed his work on information accountability.

Weitzner then led a large hypothetical discussion where MIT in the near-future “embrace[s] the potential of data-powered, analytics-driven systems in all aspects of campus life, from education to health care to community sustainability.” Weitzner asked a slate of panelists what they would do as the future chief privacy officer of MIT, and Intel’s David Hoffman suggested that we all need to understand “that a lot of the data about us that’s now out there is not coming from us.”  As a result, meaningful transparency must mean more than notice to individuals. Panelists then hit a wide-gamut of issues from the ethical challenges around predictive analysis and the need to get serious about addressing questions about use, teeing up the Administration’s next workshop on the ethics of big data.


Posted On
Mar 05, 2014
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” The challenge posed by big data is that multiple uses of data create a cumulatively harm to privacy,”

Actually breaking any part of the unalienable Bill of Rights is treason against the USA, against the American people, and against each state.

“Lawful”: in accordance with the law of the land; according to the law; permitted, sanctioned, or justified by law. That would be the the US Constitution and everything that is in Pursuance thereof IT, plus each state’s Constitution under our LEGITIMATE government.
“Legal”: the “color of law”, “appearance of law”, “pretense of law without the substance of lawfulness”, “misuse of power made possible only because wrongdoer is clothed with authority of state”.

“This has nothing to do with personalities or subjective ideas. It’s a matter of what the Constitution provides…
The government of the United States has never violated anyone’s constitutional rights…
The government of the United States will never violate anyone constitutional rights, because it cannot violate anyone’s constitutional rights. The reason for that is: The government of the United States is that set of actions by public officials that are consistent with the Constitution. Outside of its constitutional powers, the government of the United States has no legitimacy. It has no authority; and, it really even has no existence. It is what lawyers call a legal fiction.
… the famous case Norton v. Shelby County… The Court said: “An unconstitutional act is not a law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties. It is, in legal contemplation, as inoperative as though it had never been passed.”
And that applies to any (and all) governmental action outside of the Constitution…” Dr. Edwin Vieira

What are the defining characteristics of a limited government? They are its disabilities; what it does not have legal authority to do. Look at the First Amendment… What does it do? It guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion. But how does it do that? I quote: “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press” etcetera. “Congress shall make no law;” that’s a statement of an absence of power. That’s a statement of a disability.

The US Constitution does not allow for those elected or hired to implement or install “emergency powers”. It is not in their job description, the contract they agreed to when they took the governmental office or position they occupy – elected or hired, military or nonmilitary. The Bill of Rights is a list of further restrictions put upon those who serve or occupy governmental positions; the US Constitution defining exactly what they can do, which restricts, forbids anything else that is not specifically listed there. It does not allow for “executive orders” or “judicial orders” rather it forbids them in Article I, Section. 1.

Thomas Jefferson: “The government created by this compact (the Constitution) was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself;…”

Alexander Hamilton: “Every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. ..”

Federalist 57, James Madison wrote that Congress “can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society.”

Bouvier’s Law Dictionary 1856- TREASON, criminal law. “This word imports a betraying, treachery, or breach of allegiance. 4 Bl. Com. 75.”

Black’s Law 6th Edition – “A breach of allegiance to one’s government, usually committed through levying of war against such government or by giving aid or comfort to the enemy.”
[Note: The word, “usually” above is obviously used due to the fact that the current interpretation being used in U.S. jurisprudence does not coincide with traditional definitions, it excludes other specie of treason such as “constructive treason”, traitorous conspiracies and insurrections meant to alter the established law, or to render it ineffectual. All of which are mentioned in the founding documents.]

Tucker’s Blackstone Vol. 1 Appendix Note B [Section 3] 1803 – “If in a limited government the public functionaries exceed the limits which the constitution prescribes to their powers, every such act is an act of usurpation in the government, and, as such, treason against the sovereignty of the people.”

Tucker’s Blackstone Volume 1 — Appendix Note B [Section 3 — Of the several forms of government]: If the constitution be founded upon the previous act of the people (the creation of the U.S. Constitution), the government is limited. If it have any other foundation, it is merely constructive, and the government arrogates to itself the sole right of making such a construction of it, as may suit with its own views, designs, and interests: and when this right can be successfully exercised, the government becomes absolute and despotic. In like manner, if in a limited government the public functionaries exceed the limits which the constitution prescribes to their powers, every such act is an act of usurpation in the government, and, as such, TREASON against the sovereignty of the people, which is thus endeavored to be subverted, and transferred to the usurpers.

Every delegated authority implies a trust; responsibility follows as the shadow does its substance. But where there is no responsibility, authority is no longer a trust, but an act of usurpation. And every act of usurpation is either an act of TREASON, or an act of WARFARE.

C. U. S. Art. 3. Sec. 3. The act of 1 Cong. 2 Sess. c. 9. accordingly declares, that the punishment shall be death, by hanging; and that no conviction or judgment for treason, shall work any forfeiture of estate.

The following excerpts from founding documents show:
1. The Constitution of the United States is the “Supreme Law of the Land” and any law that strays outside the boundaries enumerated in it are undeniably unconstitutional.
2. The undisputable fact that acts passed by Congress or by State legislatures which do not conform to the Constitution of the United States have been found by the Supreme Court to be “null and void and have no effect”.
3. The enactment of unconstitutional laws by legislators clearly violated their Oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States”.
4. The violation of this Oath by an elected official/public officer must therefore be construed as a “Treasonable Act.”

Tucker’s Blackstone Volume II Chapter 2 Section 1: 12. It is otherwise in the United States; the president is the chief magistrate, but he is not the sole magistrate of the nation. He may nominate, but he cannot make a permanent appointment, to office (except in some particular instances) without the concurrence of the senate. Many of those who are nominated and commissioned are not responsible to him, or removable by him; but are responsible only to the people, and to the law, and removable only upon impeachment by their representatives, and upon conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. Constitution U. S. Art. 2, 3.

United States v. Hoxie – 26 Fed. Cas. 397, no. 15,407 C.C.D.Vt. 1808: Treason, not only holds a conspicuous, and generally the first place in every catalogue of crimes, but is almost universally punished with death. Government is so high a blessing, and its preservation and support are so essential to the welfare of every member of the body politic, that to attempt its subversion, has ever been regarded a most aggravated offense.

What is meant by the expression “levying war”? It means “insurrections” in order to alter the established law, or to render it ineffectual; “insurrections” to accomplish these ends, “by executive, legislative or judicial acts”, or by numbers and an open and armed force, are a levying of war against the United States.
By whom may the war be levied? Those who owe obedience to the US Constitution and each state Constitution, who receive protection from it. Against whom must it be levied? It must be levied against the United States; against the Sovereignty of the People. Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution 3:§§ 1292, 1294–96, 1791–94

Tucker’s Blackstone Volume I Chapter 10 Section 2 (Regarding the Oath)
The members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, and all members of congress shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support the constitution of the United States. Constitution U. S. Art. 6, which oath must be taken by all persons, chosen or appointed after the first day of August, 1789, before they proceed to execute the duties of their office. Laws. U. S. 1 Cong. 1 Sess. c. I.

The formal profession, therefore, or oath of subjection, is nothing more than a declaration in words of what was before implied in law. Which occasions Sir Edward Coke very justly to observe, that “all subjects are equally bounden to their allegiance, as if they had taken the oath; because it is written by the finger of the law in their hearts, and the taking of the corporal oath is but an outward declaration of the same.”

The sanction of an oath, it is true, in case of violation of duty, makes the guilt still more accumulated, by the superaddition of perjury to treason…

“Congress’s power and duty “to provide for arming the Militia” cannot include a self-contradictory license “to provide for disarming the Militia”. And, just as obviously, no other powers of Congress – such as the powers “to lay and collect Taxes” and “to regulate Commerce”, the two legalistic props usually invoked for “gun control” – can interfere with, let alone negate, the power “to provide for arming the Militia”, because:
(i) All constitutional powers are “of equal dignity” in all respects, such that none may ever be “enforced as to nullify or substantially impair [any] other”;
(ii) The Militia are State governmental institutions – as the Constitution describes them, “the Militia of the several States” – not any form of Commerce”; and
(iii) The General Government cannot impose a tax on any State, any State governmental institution, or the production, acquisition, possession, or use of any equipment necessary for the proper functioning thereof.
“Dare Call It Treason”, Edwin Vieira, Jr.

“Blackstone’s principle that “the highest civil crime… ought… to be the most precisely ascertained” the Constitution duly applied in its narrow definition of “Treason”: namely, “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort”.

This definition contains an important amendment of Blackstone’s teachings: namely, that, there being no King in America (and under the Constitution no possibility of enthroning one22), the victims of “Treason” are “the United States” taken collectively, as the phrase “in levying War against them, or in adhering to their enemies” evidences.

In keeping with Blackstone’s definition, as well as the common understanding at the time, “Treason” must always remain both in principle and practice a breach of allegiance to “the sovereign”. “In general, treason is the offense of attempting to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance”. Significantly, allegiance is not owed to “the government of the state”, which is no more than an instrumentality of “the state”, but instead to “the state” herself. In America under the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, WE THE PEOPLE have rightfully asserted and retained for themselves the position of the sole sovereigns.

Perforce of the Declaration, “the good People of the American Colonies”, and no one else, took upon themselves and exercised sovereignty by: “dissolving the political bands which had connected them with Great Britain; “assuming among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitled them”; and exercising their “Right… to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them… seemed most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness”. Then, as it’s Preamble recites, “WE THE PEOPLE of the United States… did ordain and establish the Constitution”, by themselves and under their own authority.”

That is, under the aegis of those “Laws” “the People” alone are the sovereigns, the “Form of Government” their creation, and public officials within that “Form of Government” subjects who necessarily owe allegiance to “the People”.

The Constitution makes clear that none of “the several States” that make up “the United States” is to be confounded with her government. For it mandates that “the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government”. This proves that a “State” is distinct from “a Republican Form of Government”. “A Republican Form of Government” is merely an establishment located within and dedicated to the service of a “State”.

So, inasmuch as WE THE PEOPLE themselves are the true and only sovereigns in America – and inasmuch as WE THE PEOPLE alone are real beings physically, and the real parties in interest in the premises legally, “the several States” and “the United States” being no more than political and legal fictions – then “Treason against the United States” must entail “Treason against WE THE PEOPLE who comprise the United States”; “levying War against the United States” must always amount to “levying War against the PEOPLE”; and “levying War against the PEOPLE” must always amount to “levying War against the United States”.

But if no one can possibly “levy War against the United States” without “levying War against the PEOPLE”, and if no one can possibly “levy War against the PEOPLE” without “levying War against the United States”, and if to constitute “Treason” “war must be actually levied against the United States”, the question nevertheless remains: “Exactly what does to ‘levy War’ mean?” The answer is that “Treason” requires at some point “the actual employment of force”. “To complete the crime of levying war against the United States, there must be an actual assemblage of men for the purpose of executing a treasonable design.” And “if a body of men be actually assembled, for the purpose of effecting by force a treasonable purpose, all those who perform any part, however minute, or however remote from the scene of action, and who are actually leagued in the general conspiracy, are to be considered as traitors”.

To be sure, although “‘some actual force or violence must be used, in pursuance of… a design to levy war’”, “‘it is altogether immaterial, whether the force used is sufficient to effectuate the object; any force connected with the intention will constitute the crime of levying war’”. Moreover, “levying War” can embrace more than simply the appearance of men under arms and actual fighting. For example, “if… the government established by the United States… is to be revolutionized by force, although merely as a step to, or a means of executing some greater projects, the design is unquestionably treasonable, and any assemblage of men for that purpose would amount to a levying of war”. Or “if… the subversion of the government of the United States… were a means clearly and necessarily, to be employed, if such means formed a substantive part of the plan, the assemblage of a body of men to effect it, would be levying war against the United States”.” “Dare Call It Treason”, Edwin Vieira, Jr.

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