Focus Areas:    Consumer Protection | Data Security | FTC | Privacy

Comments of TechFreedom and the International Center for Law & Economics, In Response to FTC Workshop: “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?,” FTC

Comments of TechFreedom and the International Center for Law & Economics, Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion? Effects of Big Data on Low Income & Underserved Consumers, FTC Project No. P145406 (Oct. 31, 2014).

Summary

“To the American ear, there is perhaps no uglier word than “discrimination.” The mere mention brings to mind Bull Connor, turning police dogs and fire hoses onto Martin Luther King, Jr.’s non violent demonstrators against Jim Crow in Birmingham, back in the 1962. Or perhaps subtler manifestations of racism.We all want America to be that nation King spoke of, where everyone “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Yet this is precisely what “Big Data” offers: by studying correlations in larger data sets, “data scientists” can craft algorithms that distinguish better between superficial attributes like race, sex, and sexual orientation and deeper attributes like reliability, honesty, credit-worthiness and other aspects of the “content of our character.””

Yet this is precisely what “Big Data” offers: by studying correlations in larger data sets, “data scientists” can craft algorithms that distinguish better between superficial attributes like race, sex, and sexual orientation and deeper attributes like reliability, honesty, credit worthiness and other aspects of the “content of our character.” In short, Big Data may mean less of  the Bull Connor kind of discrimination and more of the kind that would have seemed natural to Jane Austen’s readers (Merriam Webster’s second definition). This is precisely what credit scoring did: replacing the old system where bankers made!lending decision! based on the banker’s personal judgment — and biases — with one that discriminated between good and bad credit risks, regardless of superficial attributes or the simple social proximity between banker and borrower…”

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