Big Data

Technological progress should bring greater safety, economic opportunity and convenience to everyone. At the same time, as new technologies allow companies and government to gain greater insight into our lives, it is vitally important that these technologies be designed and used in ways that respect the values of equal opportunity and equal justice.

Building on our efforts in producing the Civil Rights Principles for the Era of Big Data and the lessons learned by the White House in its 2014 review of big data, The Education Fund is highlighting the need to better understand what is at stake for civil rights in a big data world.

Since the big data review, we continue to educate the public, community leaders and decisionmakers of the growing need to protect and strengthen key civil rights protections in the face of technological change. Specifically, our work focuses on two big data and technology areas: policing and finance. In the area of police data, we are focusing on ensuring that police-operated cameras enhance, rather than threaten, civil rights. Our body worn camera principles outline policy and program guidance to provide actual accountability, protect civil rights, and begin to build a relationship of collaboration and trust between police and the communities they serve. We are also examining the impact of new predictive policing and risk assessment tools, and helping the public understand how predictive policing and risk assessment work and how they can go wrong.

We are also helping to deepen the engagement of civil rights groups—in particular, groups that represent communities of color and low-income populations—in identifying and addressing the impact of big data on lending. In more and more cases, critical financial decisions regarding pricing and eligibility are being made automatically by computers. As a result, a growing number of conversations about civil rights are also becoming discussions about how computer systems work.

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