MEPs demand transparency over big data techniques

DataIQ News

MEPs have called on the European Commission, member states and individual data regulators to strengthened transparency of algorithms that companies use when tapping into so-called big data, to minimise the risk of consumers being given different prices of a product based on data collected from their previous online behaviour.

The move follows an investigation into the rise of big data - which, it is claimed, is growing by 40% per year - and also covers the unlawful discrimination and targeting of certain groups or people defined by their race, colour, ethic or social origin, religion or political view or being refused from social benefits.

Although it is a non-legislative resolution, drafted by Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes, it is the first time that privacy fears arising from big data have received such attention in Brussels.

Gomes said: "It is not just a question of data protection. These algorithms do have a real impact on peoples’ private lives because they can actually provoke what is happening and they can actually call into question and put at risk our fundamental rights through social media."

MEPs have also emphasised the need for greater accountability and transparency of algorithms with regards to data processing and analytics by both private and public sector and warn that low quality of data or low quality procedures could result in biased algorithms.

The increase in data flows imply further vulnerabilities and new security challenges, MEPs say. They have called for the use of privacy by design and by default, anonymisation techniques, encryption, and mandatory privacy impact assessments. They also stress that special attention should be given to the security of e-government systems.

They have now demanded that the Commission, the European Data Protection Board and other independent supervisory authorities issue guidelines and best practises for further specifying the criteria and conditions for decisions based on the use of big data for law enforcement purposes.

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