newsDays before the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII was revealed, a White House review ordered by President Barack Obama determined there may be a dark side to collecting large amounts of data.

The review, led by White House counselor John Podesta, found that the U.S. government and private businesses could use Big Data to discriminate against economically vulnerable consumers. Employment and housing are areas where Big Data could be used for the wrong reasons, the Associated Press reported.

Of the 90-day review period that started shortly after Obama’s January 17 speech, Podesta said, “It was a moment to step back and say, ‘Does this change our basic framework or our look at the way we’re dealing with records and privacy?’”

It should. That’s what advocates for laws requiring greater transparency in the way data is shared, analyzed and used have long cried, anyway.

Whether laws are overhauled or tweaked, remember that you can take an important step to protect yourself. Think about every Google search you conduct, Facebook status you post, and so on.

May the Force – err, common sense – be with you.

Here are four more stories found on the beat:

Just getting started

U.S. Magistrate Judge James Francis didn’t do U.S. Internet service providers (ISPs) any favors, ruling U.S. search warrants apply to data stored in data centers overseas.

Involved in a case on the matter, Microsoft explained its position:

“A U.S. prosecutor cannot obtain a U.S. warrant to search someone’s home located in another country … We think the same rules should apply in the online world, but the government disagrees.”

“Microsoft’s argument is simple, perhaps deceptively so,” reads Francis’ ruling. It adds that, unlike a conventional search warrant, one for electronic communications is also part subpoena.

“It has long been the law that a subpoena requires the recipient to produce information in its possession, custody, or control regardless of location of that information,” Francis ruled.

Settle in for this story.

‘Remote’ locations

Where is the least likely place you’d expect to find a wireless signal? Make sure you cross the Canadian wilderness off your list.

According to the Agence France-Presse, Parks Canada will offer Wi-Fi in 15 to 20 of its breathtaking locations, with a three-year goal of growing the number to 75:

“The federal agency that runs 44 national parks and 160 historic sites – from the Bay of Fundy on the Atlantic to the Rockies to Baffin Island in the Arctic – wants to appeal to those who may not be able to embrace old-school quiet solace without posting about their trip in real time.”

Describing scenic outposts as “remote” takes on new meaning.

Lord of the rings?

Darth Vader crushed windpipes with a wave of his hand. That may be one of the few things Nod, the wearable Bluetooth ring, can’t do.

“What it promises is gestural control for everything from Mac/Windows PCs to Nest Thermostats and Hue lighting systems to phones, and even wearables like Google Glass,” CNET Senior Editor Scott Stein wrote in this product review.

Here’s a sneak peek of the $149 ring, available later this year.

Life after Heartbleed

A Pew Research survey of American adults shows how Heartbleed has affected their online activities. Among Internet users, 39% changed passwords or closed accounts to protect their online information; 29% believe their personal data was at risk.

Since Heartbleed struck:

  • 46% consider their online accounts somewhat secure
  • 26% say their accounts are either not too secure or not at all secure
  • 23% are confident their accounts are very secure
  • 5% don’t know

Are you sure you’re secure?

What’s your take? Leave a comment below.

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