Over 40 Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, and Consumer Groups Call on Congress to Address Data-Driven Discrimination

February 13, 2019

For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON – Today, 47 civil society organizations sent a letter to Congress calling on legislators to protect civil rights, equity, and equal opportunity in the digital ecosystem. As members of Congress continue to hold hearings and introduce legislation on digital privacy, they must address the data security and privacy abuses that disproportionately harm marginalized communities. These harmful practices include deceptive voter suppression, housing and employment discrimination in online advertising, and exploitative notice-and-choice practices.

Civil rights protections have existed in brick-and-mortar commerce for decades. It is time to ensure they apply to the internet economy as well. Online services should not be permitted to use consumer data to discriminate against protected classes or deny them opportunities in commerce, housing, employment, or full participation in our democracy. Congress should require companies to be transparent about their collection and use of personal information in automated decisionmaking. Companies must also anticipate and protect against discriminatory uses and disparate impacts of data.

The letter draws directly from the Civil Rights Principles for the Era of Big Data, which were released in 2014 and are just as applicable in today’s online ecosystem. Any new privacy legislation needs to be consistent with these principles, which include:

  • Stop high-tech profiling;
  • Ensure fairness in automated decisions;
  • Preserve constitutional principles;
  • Enhance individual control of personal information; and
  • Protect people from inaccurate data.

Both individuals and the government must be empowered to enforce these fundamental principles of civil rights through agency rulemaking authority, strong enforcement, and the availability of effective legal remedies. We look forward to working with policymakers to protect everyone’s rights with the goal of creating and sustaining a more just and equitable society.

Read the full letter here: https://civilrights.org/resource/address-data-driven-discrimination-protect-civil-rights

The letter is signed by the following organizations:

Access Humboldt
Access Now
Action Center on Race and Equity (ACRE)
Algorithmic Justice League
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood
Center for Democracy & Technology
Center for Digital Democracy
Center for Media Justice
Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law
Color Of Change
Common Cause
Common Sense Media
Consumer Action
Consumer Federation of America
Consumer Watchdog
Demand Progress
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Fight for the Future
Free Press Action
Human Rights Campaign
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Media Alliance
Media Mobilizing Project
National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients)
National Hispanic Media Coalition
National Organization for Women (NOW) Foundation
National Urban League
New America Public Interest Technology
New America’s Open Technology Institute
Open MIC (Open Media and Information Companies Initiative)
Organization United for Respect
Partnership for Working Families
Public Citizen
Public Knowledge
Race Forward
Ranking Digital Rights
Stop Online Violence Against Women
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
United Church of Christ, OC Inc.