NTIA Exploring How Data Practices Affect Civil Rights - Articles

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21Mar

NTIA Exploring How Data Practices Affect Civil Rights

In response to a federal inquiry into privacy, equity and civil rights, Privacy for America urged “recommendations that will buttress and improve upon existing civil rights protections in ways that will not unreasonably restrict access to data that substantially benefits all of America.” The coalition also cited the Insights Association's Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) Council efforts as evidence of how responsible data use can benefit underserved or marginalized communities.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NITA) recently requested input on “Privacy, Equity, and Civil Rights,” as the agency prepares a report. Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator, noted that "strong privacy protections" are "especially important for marginalized communities, where the consequences of privacy invasions can be more starkly felt. Data collection and sharing creates the risk of new digital discrimination replicating previous forms of profiling, redlining and exclusion. We are concerned about how these practices can hinder economic and social opportunities, from housing and jobs to health and safety.”

Privacy for America asked in response that NTIA provide “a fulsome discussion of the benefits that accrue to diverse communities from responsible uses of data; how existing federal civil rights statues provide robust protections related to discriminatory uses of data; and options to expand on existing protections while preserving responsible uses of data that benefit society, such as the approach contained in the Privacy for America Principles for Privacy Legislation.”

While our coalition opposes illegal discrimination and applauds the agency’s “efforts to examine consumer privacy through the lens of equity and civil rights,” Privacy for America argued that “access to data does not inherently create discriminatory outcomes. It is the nefarious and discriminatory use of data—not the availability of data itself—that should be subject to appropriate limitations, guardrails, and enforcement to deter and disincentivize discriminatory and harmful ends. In fact, proper use of data may be particularly important in counteracting the deleterious impacts of marginalization and discrimination.”

NTIA asked several questions “related to ways commercial data uses ‘harm’ or ‘negatively’ affect underserved or marginalized communities,” but neglected to ask “how uses of data empower those communities and provide access to and awareness of opportunities specific to such communities,” so Privacy for America cited the work of the Insights Association and our IDEA Council as evidence of such benefits:

Data access also allows entities and industries to further DEI efforts and identify unintentional inequitable practices. For instance, access to data permitted the Insights Association to complete a first-of-its-kind DEI census report on the research and analytics workforce. The report identified that nearly twice as many men as women in that specific work force held board positions and earned the highest salary levels. In addition, the report found that the percent of Black and Hispanic individuals in the research and analytics profession lagged behind their representation of the U.S. workforce. Taking learnings from that DEI research, the industry launched a fellowship program, began remote apprenticeships, and provided DEI toolkits to attempt to improve representation in the industry. Efforts such as these create and increase opportunities for disadvantaged communities, yet they would not be possible without the ability to collect, analyze, and share data associated with such communities.

About the Author

Howard Fienberg

Howard Fienberg

Based in Washington, DC, Howard is the Insights Association's lobbyist for the marketing research and data analytics industry, focusing primarily on consumer privacy and data security, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), tort reform, and the funding and integrity of the decennial Census and the American Community Survey (ACS). Howard has more than two decades of public policy experience. Before the Insights Association, he worked in Congress as senior legislative staffer for then-Representatives Christopher Cox (CA-48) and Cliff Stearns (FL-06). He also served more than four years with a science policy think tank, working to improve the understanding of scientific and social research and methodology among journalists and policymakers. Howard is also co-director of The Census Project, a 900+ member coalition in support of a fair and accurate Census and ACS. He has also served previously on the Board of Directors for the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics and and the Association of Government Relations Professionals. Howard has an MA International Relations from the University of Essex in England and a BA Honors Political Studies from Trent University in Canada, and has obtained the Certified Association Executive (CAE), Professional Lobbying Certificate (PLC) and the Public Policy Certificate (PPC). When not running advocacy for the Insights Association, Howard enjoys hockey, NFL football, sci-fi and horror movies, playing with his dog, and spending time with family and friends.

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