November 23, 2016
Mr. Alexander Macgillivray
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Executive Office of the President
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
1650 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20502
Re: Request for Information Regarding Data Portability
Dear Mr. Macgillivray:
The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) respectfully submits these comments in response to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) request for information regarding data portability. CDT is a nonprofit technology advocacy organization dedicated to promoting democratic values online, including digital privacy, free expression, and individual liberty.
Today, individuals frequently feel like they lack meaningful control over their personal information. Data portability is one important tool by which to address this concern by empowering individuals to access, transfer, and ultimately control their identity, media, and other forms of personal data. As a steward of considerable amounts of personal information, the federal government is well-positioned to explore how it can offer data portability mechanisms for citizens. In particular, we believe the OSTP can provide leadership and guidance to companies by learning how data portability is being implemented across industry, in both traditional online environments and as part of the Internet of Things.
While data portability is a powerful concept, its implementation can be haphazard and inconsistent. This is due to a combination of technical and definitional challenges and business reticence. First, for data portability to be useful for consumers, there must be meaningful interoperability standards among digital services and products. Second, an individual’s right to data portability is intertwined with the notion of data ownership, which presents challenging legal and business-use questions.
 Lee Rainie, Pew Research Ctr., The State of Privacy in Post-Snowden America (Sept. 21, 2016), http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/21/the-state-of-privacy-in-america/.