Civil and Human Rights Groups Speak Out on Privacy and Big Data Policy

A coalition of civil, human, and media rights groups today released ‘Civil Rights Principles for the Era of Big Data,’ calling on the U.S. government and businesses to respect and promote equal opportunity and equal justice in their development and use of new technologies.

“Technological progress should bring greater safety, economic opportunity, and convenience to everyone,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “While data is essential for documenting persistent inequality and discrimination, no one – no matter their color, ethnicity or gender – should be unfairly targeted by businesses or the government for dragnet surveillance, discriminatory decisions, or any other unwarranted intrusions. Our communities know all too well the consequences the abuse and misuse of these tools and will not be silent about the need to update our nation’s policies.”

The principles come as the White House undertakes a 90-day examination of how big data affects how we live and work. The groups specifically call for:

  • an end to high-tech profiling;
  • greater scrutiny of the computerized decision-making that shapes opportunities for employment, health, education, and credit;
  • the continued importance of constitutional principles of privacy and free association, especially for communities of color;
  • greater individual control over personal information; and
  • the protection of people, especially disadvantaged groups, from the documented real-world harms that follow from inaccurate data

“The civil rights community understands all too well the impact that surveillance and supposedly random data collection can have on communities of color,” said Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. “As technological progress continues to make this collection easier and less transparent, we must ensure that our democratic values of equal protection, opportunity and justice are upheld.”

Signers of the principles include the American Civil Liberties Union, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, Center for Media Justice, ColorOfChange, Common Cause, Free Press, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP, National Council of La Raza, National Hispanic Media Coalition, National Urban League, NOW Foundation, New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, and Public Knowledge.

For background that inspired these principles, please click here.

More information and commentary from members of the coalition can be found on the following sites: