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OTI Work on Discrimination and Civil Rights Protection Highlighted in White House Interim Report on Big Data and Privacy

Washington, DC -- The Obama Administration affirmed the importance of defending civil rights in an era of big data in an Interim Progress Report released this morning. The report emphasizes understanding how algorithmically driven technologies can lead both to discrimination and access to opportunity.

The announcement cited work by New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI), including a recent event, “Data & Civil Rights: Why ‘Big Data’ is a Civil Rights Issue,” organized in conjunction with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Data & Society Research Institute.

“The White House announcement bodes well for civil rights in the United States,” said Seeta Peña Gangadharan, a Senior Research Fellow who established OTI’s portfolio on data-driven discrimination and has represented New America in civil rights, media justice, and privacy communities. “We’re at a key moment in the development and diffusion of big data tools and techniques, and the Administration is building critical understanding about the nature of fairness and opportunity in technologically-mediated worlds.”

“Data offers huge opportunities to address social problems, but we will never realize those opportunities without strong protections for people’s privacy and civil rights. We are delighted to see the Administration recognizing this need,” said Alan Davidson, Vice President at New America and Director of OTI. “New America looks forward to continuing our work at the intersection of civil rights and technology as these issues mature in the public arena.”

At the same time the Administration advances the conversation on data and discrimination, it is also working to advance policies to defend Americans’ privacy, including a legislative proposal on student privacy, and reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration, with Congress, and with administrative agencies to ensure consumers are protected in the era of big data,” said Laura Moy, a Senior Policy Counsel who leads OTI’s policy team’s efforts in consumer privacy.

The announcement comes as the Supreme Court is examining the civil-rights era legislation on fair housing, including the interpretation of disparate impact, a concept that has implications for big data industry, automation, and fairness.

Expert Contacts
Alan Davidson
Director, Open Technology Institute
Vice President, New America
(202) 596-3426

Seeta Peña Gangadharan Senior Research Fellow, Open Technology Institute, New America
(212) 625-4875

Laura Moy
Senior Policy Counsel, Open Technology Institute, New America
(202) 596-3346