Obama’s Case for the Benefits of Big Brother Government

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The President touts the government's use of big data.

It was only seconds before US president Barack Obama mentioned Google when talking about how technology could transform government Monday morning.

And indeed, the reinvention of government as a data mine was largely Obama’s point. While he didn’t refer to the government’s collaboration with Google and other tech companies to capture vast amounts of user data via PRISM and other programs, he essentially made the same point as Poulos: Much of government is a data-collection project. Indeed, it always has been—there’s a reason the census is in the US constitution. That data can be used for bad purposes, or good, and with so much attention to the bad side of late, the White House seems to want to remind us that it uses all that data for good things, too.

Obama’s examples were wide-ranging. During disasters, emergency responders use satellite imagery to respond to the hardest-hit places, going door to door with iPads to check for survivors. The government is releasing “the people’s data” to the private sector, so that energy companies can use information on weather patters and energy usage to help customers reduce power bills, and health care companies can find ways to lower insurance costs. The government is even working to replicate the “auto-fill” feature on web-browsers to make filling in government forms easier.

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